Wattage and cosmic significance

Three light bulbs burned out in my room this week. And one at my desk at work. It is just a coincidence because there’s nothing else for it to be. How could so many the light bulbs in my life conspire against me at once?

The black tall lamp next to my desk in my bedroom went first, but I had the desk lamp and the overhead light to back me up, and the lamp on the dresser for when I need just a little light but not too much in the mornings to make sure I am putting on pants that actually are navy, not black.

Because I’m a strong, independent (ish) woman who can change her own light bulbs, I went to my toolbox and grabbed another bulb. But that didn’t work. So then I wondered if my lamp was broken. That was a bigger problem for another day. No time now, we’ll figure it out later.

Then the lamp on my desk at work went out, but the light under the cabinet and the overhead lights were still on, so I was fine. I could still see. I planned to bring a light bulb in the following week. This was a strange coincidence. Two light bulbs in one week is not that strange.

Then just a couple days ago the bulb in the paper lantern that serves as an overhead light in my bedroom popped when I turned it on. I started to wonder what was going on. Maybe the circuit was having problems, but everything else that was plugged in, my computer, the chargers, the fan, the two remaining lamps (last ones standing) were all just fine. It had to be the bulb. Or maybe all the lamps were breaking at once.

Then yesterday the lamp on the dresser popped when I tried to get a little light to see into the closet. I was down to two low-powered lamps in my room, not enough to make it through another gloomy, rainy day.

So today I finally asked my dad to check it out.

Good sport that he is, he bent down to see if they were plugged in, tried other light bulbs from lamps that were working in them, reset the ground fault interruptor (whatever that is). Turns out the replacement light bulb I’d been cycling around wasn’t good. This problem is fixable.

But four bulbs in one week? Three in the same room? He said there could have been some shock wave that went through the system. Apparently just in my room.

And at my desk at work, 16.7 miles away from home.

Some surge of power, perhaps. Maybe I had put new bulbs in all at once. Maybe I used up the wattage too evenly.

I thought about it a lot, wondered if there was some cosmic, spiritual significance to it. What do you learn when your light bulbs go out in tandem? Is this a special message? I wasn’t getting any accompanying revelation, just confusion.

So I just went to Walgreen’s and got four new bulbs. There wasn’t much else to do.

I’d like for there to be a nice parallel here, some metaphor from which I can learn a truth about how I’m supposed to live, but I think the point is that when your light bulbs go out there isn’t much cosmic significance, and you certainly won’t get very far until you replace them.

Certainly human.

Tuesday started with rain and will likely end with snow. That also means that it will start with coffee and keep going with coffee. Cloudy days = more caffeine required.

Is there anyone out there who can learn life lessons in a way other than the hard way? I mean, is there anyone who reads the self-help books and the advice columns and the “10 mistakes not to make” articles and actually avoids that?

I always have to learn by experience. Maybe it’s because I’m stubborn (thanks, Dad) or because I’m determined to see things through to the end (thanks, Mom). I have to make ridiculous mistakes before God can finally hit me on the head with a two-by-four and let me sit in stunned perspective. Oh, that’s why that wasn’t a good idea.

I had one of those moments this morning. There was a two-by-four, and now there’s a headache and severe determination to not need to be hit on the head again.

It’s part of the human experience, I think, even more so than puberty or mid-life crises (which, my roommate has informed me, are proven to not be any more common than a crisis at any other phase of life. She’s in lifespan psych right now, so we should trust her.) to make mistakes and finally come to the conclusion that would have helped us initially had we known it or paid attention to the voices that already knew it.

At least I’m certain I’m human.

Folding lessons.

I’ve spent quite a lot of time folding clothes over my extended break. Fold, re-fold, tell a customer how cute that sweater you just folded is, watch them rifle through the pile to find their size, smile as they take it to the dressing room, re-fold entire stack of sweaters.

I don’t resent the folding. I slightly resent people who are mean, but I’m trying not to. I try to imagine that mean people haven’t had enough people be courteous to them. So they don’t know how to respond nicely. And they leave inside out clothing all over their dressing rooms and leave without so much as a smile or a response to our cheerful goodbyes because they just don’t know better.


I’m not bitter.

I really don’t resent the folding, though. It’s taught me a thing or two.

1. There’s a rhythm to folding. If you’re trying to get the perfect creases while folding a shirt in the air, you’re going to have to move with the rhythm of the fabric. Patience, grasshopper. Wait for the fabric to sway in the right direction. Place your first fingers where you want it to fold and slide your thumbs to the back at just the right time so that the sleeves and sides of the shirt fold evenly and smoothly to the back.  Really, it’s an art form. I’m still an apprentice, but I know a few Da Vinci’s of folding.

2. There’s no point to getting frustrated when you have to re-fold an entire pile of shirts just because someone needed the size at the bottom. That’s just life. You get your piles stacked all nicely, ordered the way you’re comfortable with, but then someone comes along and needs something from you that shifts your pile a bit. So you have to learn to adjust and play Jenga.

3. Neatness is actually a virtue. A folded stack of shirts looks so far superior to a pile of sleeves and necklines.

4. I now can fold any shirt you throw my way. Maybe even while you’re still throwing it my way…. while juggling on a unicycle.

Even if these were the only lessons I’d learned from retail, the only reminders I’d garnered, it would still have been worth my time. I’m learning that anything can be worth my time if I’m willing to open my eyes and see the object lessons God has placed before me.

Bearing like Mary.

Get excited, I’m blogging twice in one week for the first time in a long time.

Here’s what’s been going on since we last talked:

1. Papers

2. Packing

3. I spilled tea on the couch and have to sit on the floor as punishment.

4. Papers

5. Packing

6. Papers

7. Reading

8. Packing

9. Baking (in excess)

10. Trudging around in the snow and loving every second of it. The second half of that sentence won’t last long.

I’ve also been thinking about Mary’s story, because it’s the Christmas season. I’m beginning to realize that we have a lot in common. I’ve typically heard Mary presented as the epitome of following God when He asks you to do something or as an example that God uses unlikely people to do amazing things (e.g. 14 year old girls to be the mother of the son of God).

But now I’m starting to think that Mary might be more human than that. Let’s rehash her story, shall we? Mary was a teenage virgin (the Bible’s very clear about that. It’s one of the only things we know about her specifically) who was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph. Then one day, her whole world gets flipped around when an angel comes to her and tells her that she’s about to become pregnant with a baby boy who will be called the Son of the Most High.

The angel gives her a name for the child to save her the stress of having to come up with one (likely not the real reason but also very nice of him. Can you imagine trying to pick out a name for the son of God?) and leaves.

Mary’s response? “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me according to your word.”

The Bible doesn’t say that she leaped around or jumped for joy. It doesn’t give us a facial expression for her or a tone of voice or any clue as to how she was feeling, but I think I have a guess.

I bet she felt a little bit confused, maybe a bit defeated. I think that’s how I would feel. She was doing so well in life with her betrothal to Mr. Joseph and all that. Now she’d have the Hester Prynne stigma (even though that book came about 1700 years later). And as incredible as it sounds to be the mother of God, I bet she didn’t feel up to the job.

I can imagine the thoughts going on in her head:

I know I should feel honored, but I didn’t do anything to merit this honor. I don’t think I’m ready. I just want a normal life. I know God will use me in great ways and that my whole life will be remarkable because of this, but it looks so foreign and complicated. I might have this stigma as the pregnant teen for the rest of my life. People won’t know he’s the son of God right away, will they? Will He come out with a halo? What am I going to tell Joseph? I barely know the man, and now I have to explain this whole scenario to him. He won’t believe me. What if he leaves me? I just want order! I just want God to use me in smaller ways, in ways I can manage. I never asked for this. I don’t even know what to do with a regular baby, much less a holy one! 

I think God asks us to bear what we’re not prepared for. I think He wants to be born in our lives through something we never expected and can’t bear on our own. In a sense, this year I’ve had my own type of pregnancy (don’t get the wrong idea, I’m definitely not pregnant), bearing some things that are going to bear fruit in my life and change me so that God can use me. I know this, in my head. I know that my struggles are here to bring God glory, but it’s still hard.

It’s still difficult to swallow the responsibility. It’s not like God says, Hello, I want to use you, not because of anything you are but because I want to partner with you because I love you and want to use you for my Kingdom purposes. You are going to have an integral role there. (apparently God speaks in run-on sentences) and we respond with confetti. No, God says all that, and we feel like we’ve been hit with a two-by-four. That’s realistic. I’m 90% certain that Mary felt that way, at least at some point.

This is where I’ve learned to lean. I’m certain that Mary learned the same thing, that it isn’t shameful to be dependent. Really, that’s the only way that you’ll be able to bear the weight of God’s work. That’s what He wants us to do. He gives us something to bear and an arm to cling to while we bear it. That way, when we move into the work that He was preparing for, we’re used to depending on Him. It’ll be about Him and not about us. We’ll know where our strength comes from and constantly return to be filled up again.

I want to be like Mary this Christmas, to be stunned that God would ask me to bear something for Him and to lean on Him while I wait for it to be born in my life.

Barista dreams.

I became a barista today. I know what it takes to make mochas, lattes, cappuccinos, americanos, and – above all – I know how to fill up a cup with regular coffee.

Ask me in a week if I can still do this. The answer will likely be ‘no’.

It’s a dream come true for me to actually know what I’m asking the barista to do when I order my cappuccino. Plus, I didn’t understand what the difference between a cappuccino and a latte were before – I just knew I liked cappuccinos better. College isn’t just for book learning.

Sometimes you also learn how to live on a budget. You learn how to get to class right on time instead of an awkward 15 minutes early. Maybe you don’t master either of those, but you have a general idea of how it would go if you did.  You also learn to smile really brightly at people when you hand them their coffee drink or crepe so they might stick some quarters in your tip jar (you ran out of laundry money, remember?). It works.

Sometimes you learn that when you put four garlic cloves in your pasta sauce, it taste really good. Also, your hands smell like garlic when you’re trying to go to sleep at night, which is less pleasant that it sounds.

You might happen to figure out that you are worse at multi-tasking than you thought. You forget you have water boiling on the stove if you leave and can’t do homework while music plays that has words. You accept your weaknesses and move on.

And you learn that life is more productive if you take a short nap first.

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.

Things I’ve learned this week.

Sometimes you’re in college and you learn a few things. You figure out that you really can’t do everything and thus end up picking a few ways to spend your time. You learn how to study, learn that you’re easily distracted, learn that life isn’t as simple as you thought it was at first but is actually infinitely more simple than you make it out to be most days.

And you learn that when you make rice, it’s always good to make extra. You always have a use for leftover rice. Plus, rice is cheap, so you can replace it more easily than other things.

You learn that you have to put away the avocado right after you’re done with it; otherwise it’ll turn brown, which is neither pretty nor appetizing.

You learn that the best way to make friends is to cook aromatic food with your door open and Pavarotti playing. People will stop by and ask why the hallway smells like garlic and onions.

You learn that sometimes you spill blueberry syrup on your rug while eating French toast. And when the beautiful Tide-to-go pen isn’t able to get all of it out… you flip the rug over. And it’s not a failure to be clean. It’s just real life where people spill things.

You learn that you really do hate procrastinating… maybe even enough to never do it again. And all of a sudden, you feel like you’re on top of things. And it might be only the first week and you may not have started work yet, but you’re doing pretty well. Only 15 more weeks to keep it up, and that’s just about enough time to make it a habit, right?

You learn how beautiful payday is and how much cheaper Aldi is than the slightly closer grocery store. And you learn that just because they don’t call back doesn’t mean they don’t love you. And you learn that the post office is closed on Labor Day, which means that it would have been a good idea to check your mail on Friday, but you forgot.

You learn that you like getting up before 8, even when it’s your day off. And you learn that there are lots of ways to get around the fact that you don’t have a kitchen table.

You learn a lot. Sometimes by trial and error. Either way, you’re learning.

It’s only been a week. I guess you could say this is a growth period.

The weekend Pearl went on strike.

Pearl went on strike this weekend. She told me that she wanted higher wages, and I told her, “I don’t pay you. You’re my phone. I pay other people to use you.”

That’s when she started having seizures.

I did everything I could, and so did Will, the AT&T guy. We tried and we did factory resets, and she just kept relapsing. I have to say goodbye to my poor, epileptic phone this week.

And say hello to some kind of replacement.

You see, I thought about this. I thought to myself,  I would really like to not be governed by stuff. Who says I need a phone? Okay, well maybe that’s a smart choice for living in the city on your own. Maybe you’d like to keep in touch with your parents and friends and sister and grandma who doesn’t have facebook? You’re locked in to paying a data plan until next March. Are you really going to fork over all that money for nothing? Yeah, exactly. Find a used smartphone that will last you for six months.

I really wanted to be the kind of person who could have their phone break and be okay with it. I mean, I am okay with it. I haven’t cried or broken down. I’ve been pretty stable… minus all the times I’ve looked at people using their phones and think YOU DON’T KNOW HOW GOOD YOU HAVE IT.

I miss my friend, Pearl. I wish she’d stuck around for the rest of our contract together. I wish she would get better and stay with me. But sometimes you have to let things go. Goodbye, Pearl. I hope you get rid of your epilepsy someday.

Bony arms.

I find that I have increasingly little to offer God. I mean, there was a time when I thought I was an invaluable asset to the Most High, but there’s nothing remarkable about me.
I raise bony, angular arms in worship. I lift up a heart that is cracked, calloused, and sensitive. I can’t get anything in my life together on my own. When I try that, I get tired and beaten down and weary of trying to be good.
I’m amazed that God still asks me to be a part of what He’s doing. I mean, when I do group projects, I don’t allow the weak links to do anything important. I look for capable people to help me when I need it. I’m controlling while I’m cooking because, who knows, someone might crack the eggs wrong. Then we’d have a problem.
That being said, since He knows my vast limitations and the extent of my brokenness, I don’t know exactly why God wants me to be a part of His work. I wouldn’t let me.
I think it has something to do with relationship and love though. He loves me too much to not be in relationship (hence the restoration through Jesus’ death), and what better way is there to build relationship than to work together?
God doesn’t call the qualified. He qualifies the called. That ensures that we grow and He gets all the glory.
This is why my bony arms and my rag-tag heart and my willing spirit and weak flesh are valuable. Not because of anything in me, not because of anything I’ve done but because God wants to work with the incapable. This is why God is counter-cultural, friends.

spread it out.

Would you like to hear a story?  Here’s a good one from my day today:

I went downtown with my CREW.  No, that’s not just what I call my group of friends; it’s my orientation group.  We crammed into the Red Line and headed to Water Tower Place to shop around a little bit.  That lead to stopping over at the Hershey’s store, where we gaped at the huge chocolate bars (some for the first time), inhaled the chocolate air, and bounced the super bouncy balls around like little kids. Then we sat outside and talked about how hungry and exhausted we were.

So, naturally when we all got to Portillo’s, my eyes were much bigger than my stomach.  Also, I underestimated the portion size.  When you pay $8 for pasta, you actually get $8 worth of pasta.  And when you ask for a small cake shake (made by blending an entire piece of cake into ice cream), they give you more than would come in a medium fast food drink.

And the stuff’s good people.  You want to eat all of it.  But you can’t.  It’s something that has to come in installments.  The rich cream and butter and cheese on that fettuccine alfredo (aka the best you’ve ever had) makes for a hurting tummy if you consume too much.

Isn’t it beautiful?  And the amount pictured is the amount I took home in a take-home box.  I brought the shake with me as we walked down the street to the movie theater, sipping as I went.  The will to sip, to taste each of the three flavors – frosting, cake, and ice cream – individually but blended into the most incredible beverage-dessert ever was so strong, but unfortunately, the reality that my stomach could hold no more was stronger.

cake shake, yo.

I won’t lie to you.  The ARA (NPU cafeteria) food is not fabulous.  That’s being a little generous.  We have a great salad bar, I will say that.  But the food’s not great.  And there is a serious lack of butter in the facilities.  Since I come from a home where at least 8 sticks of butter reside in the fridge at all times, a little bowl full of teeny weeny margarine packets does not suffice to put on pancakes or on baked potatoes.  There isn’t enough in that entire bowl for a baked potato.

There are times in my life where I learn, where I realize, where I come across a truth about God or how I should live that makes my life so much richer, so much fuller, and the process of learning it might even be nice.  It makes me want more.  In a world where there isn’t enough spiritual butter and where we are fed mostly garbage, holiness and righteousness is like a sip of a cake shake.

I would like to think that I could handle more spiritual cake shake moments (or fettuccine alfredo moments) more frequently.  But then I remember that I once was really sick, and I still have the effects of a lot of those.  My sinful self probably can’t take too many cake shake moments and actually process them the way I should in order to use them for God’s glory.  It’s like trying to feed someone with the stomach flu too much too soon.  You stick to the easily digestible foods (I know the acronym is BRAT, but I can only remember that the ‘R’ stands for rice).  When someone is in rehab, they can completely become independent of the substance, but their bodies may not be able to process the good stuff the same way as before.

it’s not that we don’t need the good or that we don’t have the ability to take it.  But I think God spreads out realizations in our lives so that the change is permanent.  Because He knows it takes me a little while to even understand what He’s saying. Then from there it has to translate into my life, and goodness does that take a while.

Just like I won’t be eating another cake shake for about a month, so that I can handle it when I do.

Maybe it’s not a direct correlation.  But that’s what I’m thinking about after my night downtown.