Saturday, December 24, 2011


I can still remember the awful, burning anger I felt toward my professor, the tension in my guts between wanting to respect him and have an open mind and wanting to argue his logic until the sun went down and came back up again.  Our class on Liberal Arts, Christian thought, and learning how to live in community had been meeting for several weeks when one student asked if we could take prayer requests and in praying for each other build stronger relationships.  As always in a room full of new students who don't know each other or the school, argument broke out, tempers rose, opinions flew around and bounced off the walls unheard.  

Here was the issue: at the mention of taking prayer requests, which is usually a pretty insignificant, quickly accepted and easy thing to do and get done in a Christian school, our professor in a way hemmed and hawed, started bringing up the fact that who-are-we-to-tell-God-what-to-do, and laid out all these rules about how we would speak the need - "For my mother who has cancer" or "For families who have unreconciled hearts" - and the rest of the class would respond with, "Lord, have mercy", and that would be the end of it.  There would be no, “Please God do this” or “Dearlordthankyouforthisday” and “Father, Father, Father, God, God, God, just, just, just”.

I was confused and infuriated.  He was being ridiculous.  Of course we’re not telling God what to do.  We’re presenting our requests to Him and explaining to Him what we would prefer, yes.  But we are trusting Him to make the best decision.  What could possibly be wrong with that?  And how can there be any meaning in anything if we’re just repeating a script?  How is the Spirit moving if we’re just responding in unison like some mundane robots?  And why is he spending this entire three-hour class talking about this and trying to get his way when we have other things to get to?

Now, if this instance had occurred later in my time at college, after I learned to trust this professor and believe in his intention and consider his ideas and admit that he loved me, I might have responded a little more audaciously and a little less like a scared porcupine.  I might have listened.

He was teaching us about liturgy.  He was introducing us to the notion that maybe just maybe there is power in speaking something in unison.  That if we use a form of prayer that has been used for centuries, we are not boring God or acting like robots but we are joining with a larger community than just these thirty students in this class who can physically hear us.  And we are training ourselves to trust the millennia of Christians who have gone before us and hashed a lot of this stuff out already.

I did not want to accept any of this.  I had come to this college from a mega church where everything was about being on the cutting-edge and finding fresh ways to worship and doing church differently.  But because it was college and because God gave me some magical extra dose of grace to challenge myself and to run cannon-balling into new situations, I began attending the church where this professor was a pastor.  A liturgical, traditional church, where we sang out of hymnals and the pastors wore long, dark robes (a fact that one of my mega church friends literally threw her head back and laughed about on one of my first visits home), and we spoke the same exact words before communion every Sunday.  “Almighty God, unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid; cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of Your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love You, and worthily magnify Your holy name, through Christ the Lord. Amen.” 

I attended this church until I had memorized all of these words and until I could speak them joyfully into the air because I didn’t have to read them anymore.  And then I kept attending until the words became rote and boring and I could have used a change.  And then I kept attending until I didn’t mean any of these words anymore and I recited them with my mouth while falling asleep in my brain or thinking about the hair color of the person in front of me or trying to count how many times throughout the service people coughed.  And then I kept attending until I hated these words.

And then do you know what?  After several months of being bored out of my skull at church, these words began to mean something again.  As though repeating them again and again had slowly and softly drilled a hole through my chest and all of the sudden the hole reached my very heart.  It was like looking at one of those illusion paintings that first looks like a bunch of specks and then turns into a picture of dolphins or clowns or reindeer and then it was as if I looked deeper still and saw my own face reflected in the glossy paper of the painting and then I looked even harder and saw my own features and habits painted into each little orange and red and brown speck. 

These words, “The Collect”, had become some of my best friends.  I found out that these words pretty much cover it.  That in saying these words, I am saying so much more; I am saying that I trust in God’s best and that really all I want is to worship Him anyway and that He knows all of my deepest wonderings and questions and wounds and desires, and He loves me anyway.

So it turns out my professor actually knew what he was talking about.  Go figure.  And now I regularly use liturgical prayers before meals and while falling asleep and when I am so desperately needy and lost that I don’t know what else to pray.  Because now I recognize the depth, the meaning, the tradition and the community behind these prayers, and I truly believe that I am saying more than just these words.  That I am using these words as the safety net to fall into when my own tightrope of made up prayers is no longer sturdy enough to stand on.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Beautiful Exchange

Some time ago, a close friend of mine was in desperate need of some physical healing.  Her friends were praying for it.  Her family.  Her church elders.  Even people who didn't know her were agreeing in prayer that she would be healed.

And she wasn't.

I have frequently heard stories of sick people being made well.  Addictions being broken.  Relationships restored.  I have even experienced healing in myself.  In my own body.  In my own family.  A man at my church once had a tumor the size of a softball in his stomach.  The biopsy showed that the tumor was cancerous, so before he went in for surgery, a bunch of us laid our hands on him and prayed in Jesus' name that he would be healed.  Doctors removed the tumor, and when they opened it up for further testing, they found it was hollow.  A shell.  Emptiness where the cancer had been.  And (as the story usually goes with healings), there was no medical explanation for it.

But this is not always the case.  Sometimes people don't get better.  Sometimes people die.  Or worse, sometimes they live the rest of their days in extreme discomfort and suffering.  And the question that never seems to go away arises once again - why?

I have a dear friend who loves the Lord very much, who desires to please Him, and who walks with Him daily.  She believes that God always ALWAYS desires to heal and that He always can heal.  So the reason we are not healed when we ask for it has nothing to do with God.  He would if He "could", but either we are doing something wrong, there is a spiritual attack happening, or something else is not right.  This friend argues that if God is not healing the problem, it is not God's fault.

Many people disagree with her, pointing out that God may be withholding His power from His sick children to teach them about patience, to give them experiences that will help someone else in the future, to strengthen their faith.  But this friend of mine, she doesn't like that.  She says, "That would be like me breaking my son's arm just to teach him a lesson.  Or giving my daughter food poisoning just to make my other kids thankful that they have healthy bodies.  No, God would not do that.  If I, a wicked human, know how to give good things to my children, how much more would a perfect God know how to do that?  If someone is not receiving healing, God is not the one making that happen.  He would not do that."  Makes sense, huh?

But the thing I always go back to when talking to this friend is, but isn't that exactly what God did?

Didn't God take His perfect Son, who lived in eternal bliss, and send Him to earth?  To a place of selfishness, destruction, disease, pain.  Just so we could experience Emmanuel - God with us?

And didn't God allow His Son to be beat up, mocked, and killed by a bunch of evil, misguided men?  Just so those very men could experience salvation and forgiveness?

Didn't God Himself reject His own Son for the sin that was piled on top of Him on the cross?  Just so the rest of us could be accepted with open arms into the Kingdom of God?

Jesus was the perfect child - He obeyed and respected His family, He listened to directions and followed the rules, He cared for others, He shared, He put Himself last.

And I was the dirty little neighbor girl, who pulled other kids' hair, who stole toys, who shoved, who peed in other people's lawns.

And I find myself shocked anew that God would exchange that perfect child.  For me.  The nasty little reject.  He took His Only Son and said, "No, Jesus.  I don't want you right now.  I want her."

Oh, His ways are not our ways.  His thoughts are not our thoughts.  May I be always willing to accept God's "unfairness" - both the bad and the good.  May I accept His, "No, I'm not going to heal you right now," just as easily as I accept His, "Yes, child, I want you."

May we all.

Monday, September 19, 2011


Have you heard of Pinterest?  It's basically on online ideas folder where you can keep track of all of the beautiful images you find online - whether they involve fashion, crafts, books, home decor, wedding plans, whatever!  It keeps all your images in one place and (best of all), attached to each image is a link to the original source, so you never have to go back and figure out where you found the website that showed how to make those adorable light bulb vases, or who sells those fun fall boots!  You can also browse other people's Pinboards and find millions (literally!) of things to add to your own Pinboard.  So maybe it's a waste of time, but hey.  For people like me who love crafts, learning new things, and collecting information, this is going to be a very useful tool.

I'm talking as if I already use it.  But I don't...not yet anyway.  I went online to start my own Pinboard today, but it turns out you have to request an invitation from Pinterest to join their community.  So, while I'm waiting for my invitation to grace (pun) my inbox, I have already found several deliciously fun things that I want to "pin" here they are. - pretty wall hangings made out of toilet paper rolls!  Talk about redemption... - footprint reindeer.  The first Christmas after Rod and I have a baby, I WILL use this as a Christmas card. - I knew my love for empty frames would come in handy someday. - I knew as soon as my baby niece was born in April that I would be going broke for her...this is why.

Then there are things that I would probably never actually make, but they are just beautiful and inspiring...


Saturday, July 9, 2011

Reading Through the Bible in 93 Days

Some of you have been asking about this project that I'm doing for the next few months.  It all started with a comment my friend Crystal made about how much she had been wanting this beautiful new wallpaper for her entryway.  In short, she was frustrated with herself for desiring such a frivolous, material thing more than she was desiring God's Word.  She said, "Why do I want to spend so much money on this stupid paper when I should literally just write Bible verses all over my walls and cover them with Truth?"

So I decided to do just that.  I thought through a few different ways to do it, and I settled on covering the walls with pages from an old hymnal (thanks for the idea, Emily!) and then writing verses over the pages.  I started covering the walls last week - I'm realizing now I should take pictures for you - and when it came time to start writing the verses, I didn't know where to start.

As Fraulein Maria would say, "Start at the very beginning...a very good place to start."  So I rifled through some old emails and found this plan, written by my friend Jenna Battleson.  I began on July 2nd, so hopefully I should be done by the beginning of October.  Although it's a lot each day, ultimately I feel less intimidated doing it this way than if I were to try the more popular reading-through-the-Bible-in-one-year.  One year seems to provide a much greater margin for procrastination.  I'll let you know how it goes.

I pray that this inspires you to dig deeper into His Words, and wallpaper your life with His Truth.

Reading Through the Bible in 93 Days - Chronological Order.

:::UPDATE - September 19, 2011:::
Trying to do an intense Bible reading challenge along with a daily Beth Moore study?  Bad idea.  I have 5 days left in my study, then I intend to try the 93-day challenge again.  In the meantime, I am deleting the table that includes the "schedule" of readings, because it was messing with my blog layout.  Will repost when I try again :)

Sunday, May 22, 2011

New Apartment - a virtual tour {Part Two}

I'm finally getting around to posting Part Two of the apartment tour.  Hope you enjoy!

Bedroom Two -

This room looks different now than when I first took these photos last month.  And it will look different again in a few weeks.  Right now, a friend of ours is staying here while she works her hardest on graduating high school.  Just a week and a half to go!  The furniture that we have for her is pretty much what's shown here (though I found homes for most of the junk against the wall), but in a couple of weeks, another friend of ours is lending us her daughters' bed, dresser, and vanity, because she is getting bunk beds for her little girl.  I'm super excited to make this now catch-all room into a real guest room.

 This right now is my storage system for my crafty stuff.  I'm looking for a sturdier/more organized way of keeping all of these things together, so maybe if you have an idea, you could share it!

This photo is meant to show how HUGE our closets are, but I just don't think it looks right.  You'll have to take my word for it.  They are gigantic.

Bathroom Two -
To me, a bathroom is a bathroom.  However, if I do decide to do any painting, I think this is the first room I'll start with.  Or maybe the dining room.  Or both!

Dining Room -
 Have I already mentioned?  Almost all of the furniture in our house has been given to us by parents, friends, and neighbors.  And I am so thankful!  A lot of people find themselves newly married and in a pretty big hole of debt because of all the things you need to get when you move out to your own place.  Granted, this would not be the table and chairs that I picked out, but hey.  Mimi's not using them anymore, and the chairs are spinny.   Fun!

 This chandelier is my favorite built-in part of the whole apartment... except maybe the dishwasher.

A couple of close-ups of my little collage wall.  This wall is covered both with things that are extremely meaningful and memorable to me (fountain painting from my trip to the Dominican; pumpkin painting from an artist we met on our honeymoon; dried butterflies from Bolivia [I'll have to tell you about the significance of butterflies later]; the key to remember that the "key" to life is trusting God to give me what I need today and not to worry about the strength, money, grace, or whatever I'll need any time in the future) and things that have almost no meaning but are just pretty (the little gold mirror, the ceramic "love" heart, the upside-down butter dish filled with beads).  Again, if I decide to paint, I want to paint the walls adjacent to this wall in a sort of gold-ish brown to match the mirrors, the paintings, and the goose.

Kitchen - 

 Isn't that mirror by the sink cool?  It was there when we moved in.  Love it (except on days when I'm not feeling exactly thrilled with standing in front of a mirror, if you know what I mean).
 Yay!  Dishwasher!!

 We got this cabinet as a gift from Rod's sister.  In our first apartment, we used it for our TV.  But since we bought Kelly and Jay's old entertainment center, this now houses our microwave, snack foods, and random stuff that has no other home (like the blender, crockpot, and coffee maker).  I love having the extra cabinet space, plus it fills up that weird empty corner of the kitchen.  Flower painting by me, painted scarf by Picasso ($1 at the Greenville Thrift Store - oh, how I miss you thrift store).

So that's it!  I hope you've enjoyed the little tour.  And if I'm lucky, maybe someday I can give some of you a REAL tour!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

New Apartment - a virtual tour {Part One}

I've been reading a lot (and I mean a lot) of design blogs lately ~ some of my faves are here, here, and here.  They have provided me with much inspiration and some really great, cheap ideas for our new little place, which I've been wanting to post photos of for a long time.  The downside of spending so much time looking at all of these gorgeous, magazine-caliber homes is that I feel a little less than boldly confident about letting you take a peek into my own home.  However, I decorate my home (and I hope you do yours) based on things I like, things I have, and things that are important to me - even if it doesn't always match the "rules" of design.

Also, for the sake of fighting against my own struggle-for-perfect-image, for the sake of honesty, and for the sake of (hopefully) living a life that breeds confidence and you're-good-enough-ness in others, I decided to post photos of our apartment both in it's messy state and in it's picked-up state.  No excuses, no apologies, and no explanations.  Enjoy!

Okay, first the messy ones.


 You get the point.

Now on to the descriptions:

Our bedroom and bathroom ~

 His and Hers closets!

May I draw your attention to a few things?

First, the chalkboard behind the bed - I wanted to paint the whole wall a chalkboard like Emily did.  But it turns out, you need pretty smooth walls in order to do that.  Maybe someday in a different home.

 I made that picture frame jewelry hanger thing inspired by something I saw in my friend Lindsay's room a few years ago.  Fun and practical!  (but not for those short little stud earrings - too hard to get your hand behind the thing without knocking half the earrings off)

I can't remember when I painted this, but it was before I got my puppy, Daisy, during my first year of college (note the chew marks in the upper right-hand corner).

This is the only art project I've ever gotten a 100% A+ on, and it wasn't even for an art class.  I did it for a Song of Solomon project in my Wisdom and Poetic lit class.  The beautiful Susanna Schultz helped me frame it on our first-ever friend date (Hi, Susanna!).

Living room...

 We were going to get a different couch, but decided instead to have grateful hearts and just liven it up a little with some fun cushions (I LOVE the whole unmatching pillow thing that Julie's got in the Julie & Julia movie - I consider these three pillows as step one of the process).

A few details...

I painted these to try and tie in the purple/red couch pillow and purple curtain thingy.  I don't love them, but they work.

Isn't this great!  It's my "creation corner" where I can write music and be an artist.  It, too has changed, since we bought a new keyboard for my birthday - it now sits against the wall under that painting.  Which, by the way, is called "Genesis".

I painted a tiny version of this for my Hymnology class, where I was helping write a hymnal (and create some writings and art to go in it too).  My professor said he loved it so much that I gave it to him and painted a larger one for myself.  Rod framed it for me as a moving-in gift.

Another gift from Rod and a little reminder not to be scared, because "Everything worth doing is worth doing poorly."

This is the top of the bookshelf - filled with important things.  The elephant was the first in a series of gifts Rod gave me when we started dating - gifts that he bought for me, his future wife, before he knew me.  After the elephant (which he gave to me on the day he asked if he could pursue me) came a glass ring (on my birthday), his first piece of cheesecake at The Cheesecake Factory, that little orange spice container (which held my ring when he proposed), and a string of pearls (which he gave to me on our wedding day).  The penguin and turtle symbolize a story he wrote about us (which I should really post here - turtle for trust, penguin for patience).  The crystal globe was a gift from Pat & Sue at ICA (because "we are helping the world, and we mean the world to them").  And the vase is just pretty.

I have decided to do this post in two installments, because this is insanely long and it's taking FOREVER.  And there's still so much to show you!  Watch for Part 2 on Thursday.

Also, if I may.  I've been thinking about setting up an Etsy shop online, so I can sell my artwork.  I'm just not sure that anyone will be interested in buying.  Your thoughts?

Friday, April 15, 2011

My Opinion On The Book: Love Wins (Rob Bell)

Like so many other people, I first heard about this new book through the promo video that swarmed through every corner of the Internet earlier this year.  Needless to say, I was intrigued by the seemingly controversial nature of the “book about heaven, hell and the fate of every person who ever lived.”  People were claiming Rob Bell to be some form of Christian Universalist, and according to Mars Hill church, their lead pastor had (almost overnight) become more popular on Twitter than both Justin Bieber and Lady GaGa.  This book became a best seller even before it was released, so my hubby and I, being somewhat consistent followers of Bell’s works, ordered our copy at Barnes and Noble and finished reading it yesterday.  So there’s the history.  Onto the review.

To someone who reads a lot of books and reads them fairly quickly, I recommend this one to you if for no other reason than to join the discussion and to form your own opinion.  However, if you’re choosy about what you read, my advice: choose something else.  The ideas presented here are interesting and emotionally gripping, but they sadly lack the research, thoughtfulness, and academic responsibility that I feel are an absolute must for a book that wants to perform such an overhaul on orthodox Christian doctrine.  My two most frequent thoughts while reading this book were, “Where did he get that information?” and “Oh, I just wish someone else would have written this book.”

If you have had the pleasure of flipping through Drops Like Stars or watching any number of the Nooma videos, you will know that Rob Bell is a master when it comes to crafting stories, drawing connections, and really just making you feel.  But to me, with a subject as serious as “the fate of every person who ever lived”, you’ve got to have a little less fluff and a little more meat.  This book tends to blaze some new trails when it comes to ideas such as the eternity (or lack thereof) of hell, the concept that heaven and hell are actual places, the people who are “in” and the people who are “out”.  Yet as soon as the bridge starts to get a little rickety and the logic starts to falter, rather than arduously sticking with it and carrying it through for us to prove a point and take a stance, Bell just seems to conveniently change the subject or at some points, end the chapter.

He continuously and dismissively mentions what “the people in those days” or “those hearing the message of Jesus” would think; yet he never provides a footnote, an annotation, or even a hint as to where he got his information.  The closest thing we get is a section in the back called “Further Reading,” which feels more like a friend’s blog and less like a thoroughly compiled bibliography. 

My concerns were heightened when I looked up a few things he did reference only to find that he seemed to be stretching the words to make them fit his claims or leaving out some extremely vital information.  An example of the former was in talking about the Biblical story of the rich man and Lazarus, who both die and the rich man is taken to Hades while Lazarus is taken to “Abraham’s side.”  If you know the story, the rich man asks Lazarus for a drink of water to quench his thirst and sooth his burning mouth.  The answer?  “…between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.” {Luke 16:26}  Rob Bell explains that even in hell, the rich man is still asking Lazarus to serve him, meaning he hasn’t truly died to himself yet and admitted humility.  Supposedly then, the chasm that cannot be crossed is only in the rich man’s heart.  Does that seem like a stretch to you, too?  An example of the latter is in explaining that the word used for “eternal” (as in “eternal punishment”) can be taken more as the intensity of the experience and less as the actual amount of time it takes.  From this premise, Bell seems to suggest that maybe hell doesn’t last forever; maybe it’s just so intense for awhile that it feels like forever, but then it’s over.  I like this idea and I want it to be true.  However, what is left out is that the same word used in “eternal punishment” is also used in John 3:16 when referring to those who believe in Jesus and will therefore receive eternal life.  That seems like an important point to mention.  (Both of my examples are from Chapter 3 – “Hell”.  For a review of Love Wins that deals more with the actual content of the book, I recommend reading this one or this one.)

I deeply care about Rob Bell’s ideas, and I believe he longs for truth and God’s Word more than a lot of people are giving him credit for right now.  But I just wish someone would have instilled in him the importance of citing sources, backing up claims, and writing responsibly.  Especially on so crucial a topic.  I would love to believe some of what he’s saying, but it is so hard without the evidence to support it.

Unfortunately, because of this, I ended almost every chapter with a feeling of frustration and a desire for a deeper treatment of the topic at hand.  I, like so many others, have questions about heaven, hell, what the Word of God says about them, what the character of God says about them, and what it all means. 

Of course, I realize many of these questions will remain unanswered, but I sincerely yearn for a book to be written (or a book to be recommended to me if it already has been written) that will deal more reliably and thoroughly with this eternally (pun intended) important and crucial subject.  If you know of one, do tell.  And if you’ve read the book, I’d love to hear your thoughts as well.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

A Death and a Birth

In the past two weeks, I have witnessed both the death of someone I have known my entire life and the birth of someone I will know for the remainder of my life.  One occasion brings extreme sadness and moments of despair and one brings extreme joy and moments of wonder; yet I am struck by the similarities of these two starkly contrasting events.

The first parallel that I notice, and the one that made me detect the others, is that both of these instances make people involuntarily speak in hushed tones when entering a room.  There is a loud silence that accompanies both the end and the beginning of a life – in one instance, an empty silence and in one a very full one.  There are no signs hung that say “please be quiet”, yet there is a holiness there that makes us do it anyway.

People drop all of their plans, calendar pages stop turning, and loved ones travel for hours and hours in order to be together.  It doesn’t matter what plans we had – we will drop them and celebrate this life.

My mind is filled with thoughts and pictures of those closest to the celebrity – the bereaved spouse, the new parents.  I feel intense amounts of emotion, of grief, of joy, of worry, of astonishment.  I wonder to myself, “What will their life be like now?”  I am sleepless with wondering.

In both cases, the leading lady is amazingly unaware of the commotion she has just caused.  She might experience a similar disruption at certain times in her life, when another dies or another is born.  And in that way she can understand a little better about her own death or birth.  But she is not really there to witness it for herself.

A great number of hugs, photographs, and casseroles are shared.  And an even greater number of prayers.

I am amazed every time I think about the humanness of it all.  The life-ness.  We have all faced birth – in a variety of ways, of places, of hands.  And we will all face death.  There is mystery involved.  And hope and curiosity and fragility. 

If you think about it too hard, your eyesight will start to change, and it feels like you’re floating just outside of your head.  I have no conclusions to be drawn here.  Simply commentary.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Fighting the Boogey Man

Whenever Rod and I rent a movie, we always watch the previews - makes us feel more like we're at the movies.  Last night, we saw a preview for Black Swan, some creepy suspense movie about a ballet dancer who's out to get another ballet dancer or seduce her or something like that.  Anyway, I woke up in the middle of the night from a scary-feeling dream, and no matter how hard I tried, I could not get the images from that preview out of my head.  I kept seeing Natalie Portman with red eyes, staring down at a shrivel-y black feather that she had just pulled from her own skin.  And it took FOREVER to get back to sleep.

This afternoon, though, I was driving home from work, and I had just the opposite problem - I tried to remember what about my dream was so scary-feeling, and I tried to imagine the same Natalie Portman face.  But I couldn't.  Or maybe I could, but it didn't seem half as disturbing as it did at 2:30 this morning.

Does that ever happen to you?  Something seems one way in the middle of the night, and then the opposite seems true once you're fully awake?  Whether it's a frightening image you can't get out of your head or a song lyric that sounds really poetic or an idea for a new cooking show that would just be wonderful - sometimes you just cling to an idea all night, and then the sun rises and you realize your once-wonderful idea makes no sense at all.

I spend a fair amount of time thinking about heaven, hell, what happens after people die.  And I can't help but wonder if I am living in the middle of the night right now.  If the ideas that seem so clear, or the fears that seem so real will just sort of fade away when I finally wake up - when I die.  C.S. Lewis writes about heaven not as some spirt-y, dream-like place, but as a place where we will be more aware, more real, more us than we are right now.  He says the questions that we have, like "Does God know the future" and "Why does praying for healing sometimes work and sometimes not", will not be answered - they will just make no sense.  Like asking, "How heavy is yellow?" 

I like that. 

I like thinking that the doctrinal disagreements we might have or the confusions we might be stuck in are just a symptom of our not-fully-awake-ness.  And that when we are bathing in the glory of God, when His Spirit surrounds us like morning sunshine, all of the scary shapes and shadows will go away, and we will finally be able to see.

"For now, we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face.
Now I know in part; then I shall know fully,
even as I have been fully known."
{1 Corinthians 13:12}

Monday, January 31, 2011

Fortune Cookies

I've been thinking a lot lately about certain tidbits of wisdom that have "gotten me through" in the last few years.  Some are profound, intellectual, and complicated.  Some you'd expect to see written on the bumper sticker of a 17-year-old high schooler's Oldsmobile station wagon.  But all of them have been important to me at one time or another.

So I give Fortune Cookie Collection of Words of Wisdom from the Century's Collection of Wise Words from Fortune Cookies!!! (Or something like that).

#1 - "Everything worth doing is worth doing poorly." 
This was told to me by a dear professor, Rick McPeak, and this sentiment is single-handedly responsible for multiple pieces of artwork, difficult research papers, original songs, life-changing letters, and most importantly, my ITEP proposal (basically, the crux of my college career and the reason I was able to graduate in 4 years with a major I love instead of in 5 years with a major I hate).  Simply, these words give me courage.  I tend to put a lot of pressure on myself when it comes to art, music, academics, and anything that has to do with creating something out of nothing.  More times than I am proud to mention, I simply decide not to do something because I fear not being able to do it perfectly.  What if I paint a picture and I mess it up?  What if I compose a song and it's not honest?  What if I write something and no one can resonate with it?  Rick would say, it's better to give it a try and make it 80% of the way than never to try at all.  And when I obey his words, I am usually surprised by how well things go. 

#2 - Fill in the blanks: "This _____ won't ______ itself." 
This laundry won't wash itself.  This paper won't write itself.  These dishes won't wash themselves.  This dinner won't cook itself.  I'm not sure where I first heard it, but this phrase helps me reconcile the things I have to do with the age old problem of pure procrastination.  If there is something I'm not looking forward to doing, I can put it off and put it off as long as I want.  But the ultimate truth is, at some point, I'm going to have to sit down and do the thing.  So wouldn't I rather do it now and get it over with than have it hanging over my head for the next three days, and then still not enjoy doing it any more or less than if I would have done it right away?

#3 - "The raft is not the shore." 
An old Buddhist proverb.  Strangely enough, even though this advice was first given by Buddha, it has helped me overcome more Christian theological humps than almost any Christian proverb out there.  Religion classes in college got me into a (sometimes bad) habit of questioning elements of my faith and asking myself, "Why do I believe this" and "Should I even believe this?"  Unfortunately, I am very much a throw-the-baby-out-with-the-bath-water kind of girl, so the moment I realized there was a discrepency between one verse in Matthew and the corresponding verse in the three other gospels, my immediate reaction was to completely discredit Matthew's entire book.  However, when I remember the words of Buddha, I can satisfy the ugly urge I have to immediately run to the nearest shelter of logical common sense, abandoning all faith and mystery.  Instead, I can take a deep breath, remember that it's okay to not know all of the answers, and be happy just floating on the faith of my childhood until I can come to an adequately satisfying resting place of an "answer".  In the same way, when I do finally settle on an "answer" to whatever theological question I am wrestling with at the moment, this phrase helps me remember that what I think might be the safest conclusion may be only the raft that gets me to the shore of truth.

#4 - "Who of you by worrying can add a single moment to your life?"
Jesus said this during His sermon on the mount, right around the time he talked about the birds not being afraid of starving and the flowers not being afraid of going naked, because God knows their needs, and He provides for them.  Whenever I find myself in a downward mental spiral of worst case scenarios and what if's, I try to remind myself of these precious words from One I love.  Some time ago, I was thinking about having a child and how awful it would be if someday my son or daughter were climbing a tree and they fell and broke a leg or an arm.  My mind flashed through all of these terrible images of a screaming, scared, 7-year old in the emergency room, of a really bad fracture that would require surgery, of a doctor messing up during surgery, damaging a nerve, cutting a critical artery, handicapping my child for the rest of his or her life, having to have all of this weird medical equipment crowding our home, enduring curious stares from passers-by, and so on and so forth.  When I realized what a terrible fantasy I was putting myself through, I paused and thought of these words - how can worrying about something and imagining all of this help anything?  Part of my mind wants to justify worry and tell myself that if I think through every possible scenario, then I will be more prepared for something if it ever does actually happen.  But the truth is, bad things could happen.  And no matter how "prepared" I think I am, those bad things are still going to be really hard.  So is the answer to never let my children climb trees?  No.  The answer is to pray protection and safety over my family, to practice common sense, and to leave it all up to God's will.  To believe that He will take care of me and work everything, EVERYTHING, out for the best just as He always has done.

Those are just a few of the many life proverbs that have been helpful to me.  I would love to hear some of yours!