Tag Archives: trust

Don’t Touch My Stuff!

I hate sharing.

I hate it like I hate getting up at the crack of dawn.

I hate it like I hate cleaning.

The other day, my brother looked at me and said, “You’re really bad at sharing.”

And I said, “Huh, yeah I am.”

It’s totally true. When I was little, I used to sell sticks of gum to my siblings. “That’ll be 25 cents,” I’d say, and the little naive things would do it because they trusted me. The beginnings of my entrepreneurship stirred even as my parents swiftly ended my first venture.

When whoever I’m with orders something, I get excited because I expect to get a taste. When they assume the same, however, reaching over for my glass/mug/plate, I feel a bristling: Excuse me? Can you ask?, and I wonder where I get off.

~     ~     ~

I started making excuses for myself: It’s because my siblings broke everything when I was little! All my dolls were ruined! We had to fight for the yummiest of everything! I blame my childhood for my current state!

My mom even agreed with me, saying that’s probably where my penurious ways stem from. And I placate myself by saying that I give to my church, I even sponsor a child in India, for goodness sake!

But I have a hard time with the little things, like paying for someone’s coffee or ice cream or movie ticket. I never even THINK to offer these things, and I’m shocked when someone says to me, “Oh, I got this.” I wonder when they’ll expect me to pay them back, and I keep a tally in my head of how much I owe.

Generosity goes beyond money. Am I generous with my time? Yes, far more so than with my things. I am much more likely to make time in my week to see a friend than I am to buy someone a gift. You need help with something? I love helping. You want me to buy you gas? That one’s a little tougher.

I must be afraid of something. Afraid of being taken advantage of. Afraid of getting less than my share.

Maybe it’s about trust.

I want a generous spirit. I want to hold my hands open to those I love, as well as to my church and others in need. I’m sitting at a coffee shop right now, and I’m wondering why I didn’t offer to buy my friend’s coffee. Maybe that’s where it starts? Unsolicited moments of generosity.

Maybe you can train yourself to being generous?

Has someone ever taught you something about yourself? If it was a flaw, how are you working to grow?

Lenten Growth

We didn’t observe Lent growing up. I guess it’s something most Baptists don’t do… I remember when I was nine or ten, one of my Catholic friends looked at my piece of chocolate sometime in March and said, “I can’t. I gave up chocolate for Lent.”

I’d never heard of Lent (I was well-educated, I swear!), so I asked her what she was talking about. She said you choose something bad for you to give up until Easter, “but I hardly ever eat chocolate, so it isn’t that hard.”

And that was that, because we were nine and had better things to do than discuss Church history or the spiritual significance of sacrifice.

IMG_1242[I guess I’m taking a pretty big risk, hanging a horseshoe upside down…]

In college, I was surrounded by so many different expressions of Christianity that it sometimes felt like a free-for-all. I could pick and choose my favorite parts of each (I still don’t know what’s wrong with this approach, as long as the tenets are there). I watched friends give up coffee, chocolate, and Facebook in pursuit of a closer walk with the Lord. In my cynical mind, I failed to understand the beauty of this tradition. It felt more like a cheapening of Christ’s sacrifice than a spiritual discipline: so giving up ice cream is your personal equivalent to Christ giving up his life? That doesn’t fly.

Last year, my Lenten season was a peculiar one. I was working three part-time jobs, so my hours were all over the place. I found long stretches of time when I could read my Bible, surf the web for interesting reading, and try to reconcile the fact that I believed in God’s power and Truth, but that I had serious fear of dying. For the first time, I felt compelled to observe Lent, and by “observe” I mean mostly “be aware.” Instead of giving something up, I would add.

Every night, I prayed to the Lord. I do this most nights, but usually in the comfort of my warm bed. For Lent, I decided to pray on my knees.

It wasn’t revolutionary; kneeling happens in every liturgical service. But for me, it was rare. As I feared a potential (huge) surgery, I needed to be reminded of my perfect posture in life: kneeling before the Creator, so that I could stand with his strength.

I had a hard time remembering at first. There were a few nights when I’d roll out of bed, groaning, to get on my knees and offer a few sentences to God. I don’t remember a word of what I prayed, but it’s the feeling of my knees on the rough rug that’s stayed in my mind.

~     ~     ~

This Lenten season, I have a lot of ideas brimming. I want to check my email and Facebook less (although work makes this a little difficult). I want to read a daily prayer or meditation, and not forget it throughout the day, like I normally do. I want to learn how to offer up every relationship – friends, parents, siblings, everyone – to be shaped by Someone other than myself.

I don’t see Lent as a time of deprivation. Instead, I see it as a time for intentional and careful reflection. And by giving up something material or adding on something meaningful, I’m hoping that the external will allow the internal to more fully connect with what it means to share in Christ’s suffering and resurrection.

Cross

[We found this cross off the beaten path as we climbed Mount Untersberg in Austria.]

Top Ten Discoveries of 2012

Okay, I admit, this will be a very subjective list. They are not in order of importance, and I only chose ten because it’s a pretty number.

1. Vanilla-rose tea. After leaving my beloved loose-leaf tea shop to teach Latin, I began drinking tea with even more abandon. I NEVER thought I would enjoy a floral tea, but there’s something addicting about this sweet/rosy black tea. A little milk and sugar, and it’s like I’m drinking dessert. (Rooibos is still my go-to tea for all my non-caffeinated needs.)

2. Joan Didion. 

didion1

There are some authors who speak to you, and then there are other authors who keep speaking to you even after you’ve finished their books. Didion is one of the latter. When I think of a memoirist I want to emulate, she is high up on the list. Some quotes that stuck with me:

We forget all too soon the things we thought we could never forget. We forget the loves and the betrayals alike, forget what we whispered and what we screamed, forget who we were.

Slouching Towards Bethlehem

Innocence ends when one is stripped of the delusion that one likes oneself.

On Self-Respect

(I keep reminding myself that this one is only half-correct; we realize that perhaps we don’t like ourselves, but this is only helpful if we choose not to remain here, choose to reach for the truth.)

[Writing is] hostile in that you’re trying to make somebody see something the way you see it, trying to impose your idea, your picture…Quite often you want to tell somebody your dream, your nightmare. Well, nobody wants to hear about someone else’s dream, good or bad; nobody wants to walk around with it. The writer is always tricking the reader into listening to the dream.

The Paris Review

3. Teaching. Sometimes, I think surprises are funny. Sometimes, I think there are too many surprises going on in my life. Teaching is one of the biggest ones this year. While I don’t know (yet) what this will mean for me longterm, I do know that I am loving learning the language of children again, sharing my love of learning, sharing a language that will shape how they approach their own language from here on out. Decline puella? You got it. Explain how Latin uses the Dative Case? I can do that, too. I have a lot to learn, but that’s the exciting part.

4. Directing. I don’t know if I can count this as a discovery, per se, because it hasn’t officially started yet. But a week before Christmas, I went in for an interview to teach voice lessons at the YMCA, and left with a job directing the Y’s children’s musical. “Have you ever directed anything?” “No, no I haven’t.” “Are you interested?” “Yes, I guess I am.” I went home without giving an answer yet, afraid that I was – again – biting off more than I could chew. That night, we got Chinese for dinner. I read my fortune (which, let me tell you right now, I do not hold ANY store in), and was a little shocked to read: “If you understand everything you’re doing, you’re not learning anything.” Shoot. So I emailed her Yes, yes I would love to direct the musical and rehearsals start in a few weeks. More on that later, I’m sure.

5. Tom Cruise. 

tom

Okay, true confessions: I have a celebrity crush on Tom Cruise. On The Crazy. I’ve decided to afford myself this one, bizarre luxury. I don’t understand it, and I don’t expect anyone else to. The first movie I ever saw with him was “Far and Away.” I was so caught up in the story that I forgot for the moment that life was beyond the confines of this one world, and when Tom’s character falls, hitting his head and seems to die, I screamed. Literally. I ran up the stairs, angry at my brother and sister for not warning me. “Why didn’t you tell me?!?!” I shouted. Because, it wasn’t just that he died. He and the woman he loved were running for land in Oklahoma, striving for a dream together. That is my favorite image of love, and I know it’s romanticized and American and probably wrong. I can’t help it.

tom1

Needless to say, Tom’s character isn’t dead, and the movie has since become one of my favorites. So far, I’ve watched “Top Gun,” “Jerry Maguire,” “Rain Man,” “Valkyrie,” and a handful of others. For some reason, I am able to forget the fact that Tom is a Scientologist, that he’s had some crazy bouts of weirdness, that he’s made some terrible life choices. That’s the point of movies, after all – to suspend your disbelief and get swept up in something.

I feel lighter after this confession. Thank you.

6. Blogging. Yes. Writing this blog has been fun. Digesting the experiences, the blessings and the harder times, through this blog, has been really rewarding. Reading other people’s blogs and learning about their lives and what they think has broadened my own thinking.

7. Parenthood. 

parenthood

I. love. this. show. Sometimes, I sit there, tears in my eyes, and I wonder, Why do I do this to myself? Why do I watch things that make me so incredibly sad? I’m not entirely sure, to be honest, but there’s something about it. The characters are annoying and lovable and funny, and even though they make some terrible choices, they love each other. The writing is strong, the characters are believable, and I love it. (Other shows I’ve been loving: “Mindy Project,” “Ben and Kate,” and “Raising Hope.” Tuesdays are good to me.)

8. Homemade granola. I wrote about this last spring. I have to make another batch; I’m going through withdrawal. There’s nothing more delicious than a little granola with Greek yogurt, homegrown (homemade? home-what?!?!) honey, and dried cranberries. Delicious.

9. Music. Fleet Foxes. Lumineers. Florence and the Machine. Ingrid Michaelson. Bob Dylan. (Some) Adele. Of Monsters and Men. Judy Collins. Joan Baez. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. Ray LaMontagne.

10. Living at home can be exactly what you need. I never would have thought this. As graduation approached, I stared at the possibility of moving home, and I was scared. I thought I would hate it. I thought my family would start to hate ME. I thought I would never see my friends. I thought I would turn back into the girl I was before college, and that was not good at all.

But what I’ve discovered is that sometimes God gives you what you need, even if it isn’t what you want. I needed to be home this year. I needed to remember what it feels like to know your family has your back, no matter what. I needed to feel loved and safe, especially as I faced uncertain health issues (all is good, praise the Lord).

Above all, I needed to trust.

I discovered that trusting God looks different in different situations. For some, trusting God looks like moving far from home and going out on your own. For me, trusting God looked like moving home. It looked like allowing my picture of my future to change.

Trusting God is a constant discovery. It’s a pretty big one.

Bring on 2013. I’m ready.

How Last Friday Changed Me

I sat with the kids, even though I probably should’ve been with the parents.

It was my first elementary school Christmas concert ever – of my whole life – and I was pretty sure I was in for some poor quality. Five and six year olds look adorable, so it (kind of) makes up for the three different keys going on at once. The church was filled with parents, grandparents, siblings, and the room was lit up with bright reds and greens, just to prove we were in the Christmas spirit.

I sat with my colleague and friend, the fourth and fifth and sixth grades surrounding us. I could feel their adrenaline

I didn’t play a role in the evening at all. I got to sit back and enjoy their company (with only a few whispered “hushes” and shaking of my head). Each grade got up, Pre-K-6th, and I sat there and thought, there is so much.

I wanted to be sitting right there with them, my students, the pews and pews of them. Some coughing, some sneezing, but healthy.

I wanted to give each one a hug, to remind them that God loves them, that He is in control.

But instead I clapped and smiled, and hid the sadness until I got to my car.


IMG_5546

Reading the Future

My whole life, I have tried to make sense of things too early. Even before I have time to step away, close my eyes, experience what just happened, I am trying to understand. When I was little, I strived for answers, for connection. I remember when I was around seven or eight. We were learning about Gideon in Sunday School, how he trusted the Lord, but even in that trusting, he laid out things to prove his questioning.

Gideon’s fleece.

And I thought, Maybe I’ll do something like that.

When I was younger, my communication with God was like breathing; I don’t know where my thoughts ended and my prayers began. I said (or prayed or thought): Lord, if You’re there, take this note.

I took a yellow post-it note and wrote carefully in my best second-grade cursive: “I love you, Jesus.” I stuck this note of trust to the wall right by my bed, and all night I felt half awake, wondering if God had come. If God my Friend had reached down and scooped up my love-post-it.

The next morning, I turned over, afraid to open my eyes. When I did, my wall was bare, and I remember jumping out of my bed, ecstatic. I remember running down the stairs to tell my mother what had happened.

God is real!

God loves me!

And now He knows I love Him too!

I don’t remember my mother’s response, or anything else about that day, really.

~     ~      ~

A few months later, when I was cleaning my room, I pulled my bed away from the wall to vacuum.

There, crumpled in the dusty corner, was my post-it.

I picked it up, stared at it. I felt betrayed. My first reaction was: Wow.

~     ~     ~

I didn’t stop believing in God, but I did start questioning myself.

Am I too quick to read into things? Do I try too hard to see things where they aren’t?

It wasn’t until more recently, when I started thinking about that childhood moment, that I thought: Maybe God was showing me something after all.

He didn’t take my post-it, whisk it up to heaven and stick it to some sort of heavenly bulletin board of love-notes. But He didn’t just leave it on my wall, either. He let it drift off the cranberry-colored wall and under my bed. He gave me a moment of ecstasy. He showed me He was listening.

God wasn’t proving Himself, because He doesn’t have to.

He was loving me.

That’s the sense I’m making of most things these days. I may never know why some things happen. I might always be confused by the connections I feel, by the people I’m drawn to, by the many relationships that held so much potential, but that for some reason didn’t play out the way I imagined them. I am learning to let go of people I loved, friendships I cherished. I am letting go and learning not to regret the closeness we once shared.

Sometimes, I have to admit I may never know what drew me to that man on the train. That woman standing in line behind me at the post office. That little boy with the big, sad eyes.

But I’m starting to think it’s not all a loss. Maybe it’s just God loving us.

When God Looks Different Than I Thought

Last night’s small group was a lot more than I expected.

The heaviness in the room made me cry – sitting right there on the floor, with my legs crossed and my striped wool socks on – in front of dear friends and complete strangers.

Because what can you say when everything hangs in the unknown, just waiting to break?

~     ~     ~

This is the product of last weekend’s work, the last of the swiss chard standing alone in the corner. It’s too warm for October, and the bees are eating up the sugar water we left out.

I wandered the yard, taking photos, thinking what a beautiful day, and mingled in with those words was a wordless thought.

Something about pain and joy and what it means that God allows such suffering.

How do I interact with the God of Job?

How do I worship when everything is out of order? When a moment of laughing and cookie-eating is shattered by the reality of a tumor?

~     ~     ~

I am learning to encounter people in their pain, even though I sometimes feel like running away.

No. I cannot handle this. I’m sorry. Please take your pain somewhere else. 

I am learning to face other people’s pain with courage.

Forgiveness

I was going to save the idea of forgiveness until the end. I was going to write post after post about hope, joy, love, and then finally end with forgiveness. This was my plan, because it’s forgiveness that I’ve been having the hardest time with.

~     ~     ~

A woman from church once told me, when I was small and easily wounded, that “Christ has forgiven so much; we have no right not to forgive others.”

~     ~     ~

Forgiving in a relationship is not so hard for me (sometimes). A friend from my freshman year of college was adept at the plea for forgiveness: I’m sorry, I don’t know what’s wrong with me, I don’t even know why I did it.” I was trained to forgive, time and time again.

It’s forgiving outside of a relationship that has become impossible. How do you forgive someone who hasn’t even asked for it? Who, if given the choice, would do things exactly the same way again.

This is where mercy and justice get messy.

Even Christ demands repentance – demands to be asked.

That stumped me for awhile.

Until I remembered: I am not Christ.

Jesus had no sins to be forgiven, only infinite forgiveness.

But all this philosophizing of forgiveness doesn’t change the heart overnight. It’s not magic. I prayed again, after months and months of not praying about it. I’d stopped praying because prayer was admitting I hadn’t forgotten, I hadn’t forgiven, and I was the only one who hadn’t moved on.

I prayed that my heart would be changed.

Yesterday, I found a bundle of pictures, taken in the cold spring of 2009, on the streets of Newburyport, the beach of Plum Island, the cliffs of Ocean Lawn. I thought I’d thrown everything out, but here was a bunch of photos, with a younger, softer me smiling back.

Instead of throwing them away immediately, I looked through each and every one. And I even smiled.

I was so different then.

After I’d looked at them, I did throw them out. They’d served their purpose.

And that night, I dreamed we were all in a car together, coming back from a wedding. I was wearing his socks, and he looked at me and said, “Hey, I think you still have my socks.”

And instead of being sad or missing something that wasn’t real, in the dream I laughed.

I laughed and took the socks off, gave them to him over the seat.

Maybe that doesn’t count as full forgiveness, but I’m happy with baby steps.

The Full Life

Some people assign one word to their year, like it’s easily containable. I thought about doing that in January, thought about affixing the latest Christian buzzword to my twenty-third year and breathing a sigh of relief that now I didn’t have to worry about making my year count – the word did it for me.

And while you may have guessed, since it’s September and I’ve only just mentioned it, I did not end up doing it. Partly because I’m not very good at planning ahead. Partly because I’m bad at judging the passing of time, and in March it still felt like January, and I still had time to choose.

But the crux of it is this: there are too many good things in life to pick just one.

My friends have done this: “This is the year of yes,” “This is the year of trust,” and it’s benefited them greatly. I don’t want to say meditating on one thought or one ambiguous philosophy for one year is a bad thing.

I read Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand GiftsI know what it looks like to have your life transformed by the power of one word. Her experience of gratitude was encouraging, and it opened me up to the possibility of a grateful life, maybe even a grateful life before a penitent one. My journal now has lists of the blessings God has given me.

But I couldn’t stick to it. I tried to count up and up and list a thousand blessings, but I couldn’t do it. Not because God hasn’t seen fit to give me a thousand gifts, but because, I think, it takes more than gratitude to have a full life.

I couldn’t stick to just one fruit of the spirit, just one beautiful thought to meditate on for 365 days. 

Gratitude is a huge part of the Christian life. But so is honesty. So is joy. So is hope.

Over the next few weeks, I hope to explore these things. The beautiful things that make life a glimpse of what is to come.

I join the ranks of many good thinkers and observers and writers. I’d love to hear your thoughts on beauty, joy, honesty, gratitude, all the beautiful.

 

Hospitals, Cake, and Stories

After a long day of babysitting, I came home and ate a piece of cake.

It was delicious.

Two days spent trying to figure out the next step – hospitals are scary, but every single one of the doctors and nurses was kind. They took care of me. Robert kept asking me if I was okay, if I was comfortable. It was strange when he said, “Nice to meet you,” and I realized that I’d never see this man again, after two hours of him almost holding my hand.

Still no idea, so today I went back to work and ate cake.

[The little girl I watch makes up songs and stories like it’s her job. Example:

Pre-schooler: My boyfriend’s the greatest.

Me: Really? What makes him the greatest?

Pre-schooler: He gives me popcorn every day.

If only it were that simple. ]

[Notes from The Student, Part 3]

[train thoughts]

That idea of “do not throw your pearls before swine” keeps running through my head. Maybe it also means that we should be careful who we tell our deepest thoughts to. Maybe we should guard ourselves – not open ourselves up too much to people we call friends, but who time and time again prove less than trustworthy.

K. says we’re dreamers. We think and dream and hope big. And that’s not necessarily bad, but that it could (and probably is) a large part of why we are so often unsatisfied. See the less-than-perfect sides of even our biggest blessings. Maybe dreamers are more likely to be unsatisfied than concrete people.

G. is funny, clever, gets things and people quickly. But there’s not a lot of grace in her. What’s the point of knowledge – even a shade of wisdom – if you don’t have grace? I see too much of myself – of how I could be.

[we don’t have to be all things for all people. we are finite. there is actually a lot of peace in that.]

[that was the only thing about last night; i looked around while i was dancing and just saw so much desperation. it was gross and sad at the same time.]

“I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts.” -Psalm 119:45

So seeking after the Lord’s precepts – His laws, His will – is what brings freedom. Structure brings freedom. So counter-intuitive to how I think.

[overheard on the subway: “i went to zara and spent $700 on, like, nothing.”]

Gave a guy 50 cents. Said he needed $2 to get home, but I didn’t have $2 (literally, I did not have it). Can I have just $2? No, I don’t have $2. Can I have all your change? No, you can have 50 cents. Did I just help his drug addiction? Maybe. I don’t know. Where in the Bible does it say, “make sure they use your money wisely”?

[i keep thinking about M. maybe because i realized i’m older than he’ll ever be – i’ve already been given more time. i’m not sure. maybe i should email his mom, tell her we still think about him. tell her a story where he’s the young hero, showing me how to laugh, how to flirt, how to smile into twinkly, mischievous eyes.]

Marriage is such an excluding relationship. When others get married, you are eternally on the outside. Weird.

Don’t reduce your life to only one passion.

[in thinking about “Legends of the Fall” and how grotesque all the characters are; they could have lived beautiful lives, but instead they chose selfishness and reduced themselves to one passion, flattening themselves.]

A lot for a day, and yet only a piece of it.