Sunday, May 13, 2012

What's in a name?

There's nothing like the veil of the night to force one's mind into submission.  And perhaps a little of its magic too, the stillness of its wrap, full base of noiseless sound, the tingling.

I'm tired.  To be more exact, I'm drained.  Of emotion, and energy, and even a little essence.  The words stick to my brain like scratch-and-sniffs...I'm slowly peeling them off, one by one, into the flow of what I've learned about sentences, nouns, verbs.

I used to think Kelly Clarkson was crazy, singing "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger" as a way to convince herself that this was true, as a way to cope--wishful thinking.  I was under the impression that the only people who agree with her are the ones who've never felt like death, who've never experienced real pain, who've never had their heart broken and rebuilt like a stone, a shame...
But now I'm starting to think she's onto something.  I'm starting to think Life is more about death, about how much you can take before you fall, about how much you're willing to give.  Will you sacrifice it all?

My grandma asked me today what I write.
Creative non-fiction, I said.
Do you write about your brothers? she asked.

I thought about this for a while.
No, I responded.  Not really.
Well, she continued, that's probably good, because their story doesn't have an ending yet.  So, is it an autobiography?
No, I answered.

Only why do I feel like I can't write an ending?
Why do I feel as if there's no end to a story that doesn't exist entire, to a story I can't even own as mine?

This thought got me thinking about circles again, imperfect ones yes, but just the nature of the circle.  I think I've always thought wrongly about circles, because even though the shape doesn't end, you have to lift your pencil at some point.  Or do you?  Would you go crazy if you kept drawing lines over the old ones?  Perhaps.  What if the circle kept changing, though?  What if there is a mystery in the madness?
I'm warning you this isn't a very accurate metaphor.  For one, I don't know if I'm speaking about the metanarrative of life or about a specific story.  Although I have a pretty good idea it might be both.

Do stories truly end?  Well yes, the book ends, the chapters reach blank space, but not the best ones, not really.  We've all heard the cliched statements about how stories live on, legends.  The good ones do, though, whether or not the cliche transforms into something else, in your memory, in your emotions, in the lives of others.  And if this is true, then there must be something that conquers death.  There must be something that keeps the circle going.

...and with this, something comes to mind, a mystery--a name that people say sometimes, in vain.  This name knew pain.
So when I feel defeated at the end of the day, when I'm tempted to pity myself, I listen to the words in my soul which come to me the day long in silent whispers, tugging at me.  I know pain, but I don't.
This world is full of people being defeated by death everyday.  The ceasing of the will to fight for what's right, letting love die out because it demands so much, the walking dead are everywhere.

At the end of the day, I'm a fighter.  I know the name that conquers death.
All I can do is hope that you're standing next to me.
Faith that you are.
Hope that you will.
Love as our guide.

...I wouldn't be a very good blogger if I didn't answer the question that my title poses.  But then, you wouldn't be a very good reader if you didn't realize that I already have.

This ending is a little raw.  Like life.  Today, I'm okay with that.

For Beauty weighs on the thick night air, and I, in turn, experience Life for the taking.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

One word

The image of a young boy playing with a boxed toy on the floor of the local Walmart has ingrained itself in my memory over the past few hours, and I think I'm starting to understand that this memory represents much more than what meets the eye.

"Summer feels different," I said to my best friend, over a Starbucks coffee on Tuesday afternoon.  There is this wide expanse of time stretching before us, but we fill it with books and papers and classes and all the other responsibilities that are foreign to us...what happened to the lazy summer days I remember?  The ones where my greatest concern was whether or not I would land the double back flip I'd been working on my friend's trampoline?  Or the grass stains that didn't want to come off my soccer socks?  It was not nostalgia forcing its way into my mind but a difference.  My best friend had jokingly said in her text, "Let the frolicking begin," but when did life deem necessary two girls drinking coffee in the middle of the afternoon, conversing over the past year's pains as tears stung our eyes in empathy, and then in sympathy?  Was this change from the frolicking of our youth good, or was it robbing us of something just beyond our reach?

I watched the boy adamantly.  He used his senses in tandem, touching the shiny truck, shaking the box by his ear, looking so fervently at the twist ties that held it in.  Sitting on the floor, he looked up at people passing by.  They smiled down, perhaps at his innocence or his lack of social awareness.  The "good old days" when things were easy and the wind blew the breeze and not the torrential rains.  The boy turned the box over in his hands, and in my peripheral I saw my mother turning a box of strawberries over in hers, psycho-analysis.  What changes between childhood and adulthood?

Well, for one, time.  I never have enough of it these days.  So much vies for attention that nothing ever gets it fully.  The boy, sitting on the dirty floor, could see nothing else but the toy.  I wondered what it would be like to have that focus again, that determination.  And I do, at times, only at times.
Yet, despite never having enough time, I have too much in the wrong ways.  Mondays and Thursdays are too far apart.  They are altogether too far apart.
Because I have to wait til Thursday to talk to you, or two weeks to see them, or a year to cross the Atlantic and be with the generations of my blood.  There are too many days in a week, and not enough hours in a day, and the tension we feel in between is suffocating.

But.  The boy, something was changing in his demeanor.  His patience turned to listlessness.  His eyes from intrigue to intensity.  And with his next action, my reverie was broken...

"Mommmm," he called, looking with longing beyond my field of vision.  My heart rose with the inflection of his small voice.  She came by, her cart full of corn, and reached out to touch the little hand of her precious boy.  He climbed happily from the floor and walked away from the abandoned toy.

I stood, stunned.  How preoccupied the boy had been and with one word, he was off the floor.  He walked in hand with someone who offered something back, never stopped to look back.  Maybe his short attention span worked to his advantage, or maybe at his young age, he already grasped something adults often forget.  He felt the difference, in the changing of textures, in the softness, and suddenly some decisions seemed simplified.  Suddenly I understood why God puts things in boxes and ties them down with string.  If He didn't, maybe we would never call out for what we actually desire.  Maybe we would sit, on the dirty floor, playing with a toy that offers nothing.  Maybe sometimes our adult troubles involve us doing this anyway, ignoring the ties, ignoring the people who have walked into our lives because we are afraid of the pain when the hand turns rough, afraid of no one answering the call, afraid of missing and of desire we can't control.

So it seems the bridge between childhood and adulthood isn't so far, if we know where our help comes from, if we value the truly valuable, if we exchange the fear that we have gained from years of broken hearts and failure with the faith of a child.
We, like the boy, have small voices.

And maybe, just maybe, the ones we love are listening.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Love defined

Have you ever looked up the definition of love in the dictionary?
The results may prove why our society is so screwed up.
i.e. a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person
If this is all we have to work with, we should kiss marriage good-bye...literally.

I don't claim to be an expert on the emotion, the noun that makes life worth living...I'm only twenty.  I'm only twenty--God-willing I have much more to learn, but I know more than the dictionary, a book that's been around for much longer than me.  I don't care how many adjectives or adverbs are put before the word affection to make it sound stronger...

profoundly- "penetrating or entering deeply into subjects of thought or knowledge"
tender- "soft or delicate in substance"
passionate- "having, compelled by, or ruled by intense emotion or strong feeling"

Now, I don't want to underestimate any of these descriptors.  I think they are all pivotal to getting at the core of love.  Someone who is profoundly passionate in a tender way is someone who is using both mind and emotion--two parts of a human person that are essential to figuring this word out.  But in some ways, this definition only renames with a synonym: love is affection, affection is love.  This is not sufficient.  This is divorce.

I know because I've loved.  Not well, might I add.  I love my family, my friends.  But the type that has brought me closest to that of Christ is romantic, only not culturally defined.  See, I don't think romantic comedies or skewed perceptions are the problem; no, we are the problem.  Our wills, our desires, our...very selves.

We are awarded for cherishing love in the emotion it stirs in us, in what we get back from a knowing smile, a gentle touch, responsive eyes.  These are the things that give us endurance and resilience when affection fails, when a lover changes his or her mind, when a heart grows cold.  They are not the things that define love, for if you walk out during a time of forced smiles, an absence of physical presence, or indifferent eyes, you have lost.  Not the person causing you pain.  No, it is you to blame.  If you can walk out then, you never let yourself love at all.  Walking out is not letting go--the former selfish and latter selfless, if it must be done.

This is the hard truth.  It is not a game for fools.  It is not a game, period.  The second you start thinking it is something you can win or lose, the forces working against what is good have gotten the best of you because love cannot be two opposing forces simultaneously.  It is only one--a force of will, a rooted commitment, so it cannot be a broken promise, a denial, a refusal.  It never fails, it does not fade.  But it must be malleable, wills one to change.

If you wait out the ebb and flow, if your commitment doesn't wane for fear of loss, if you are willing to change the worst parts of you, the ones most familiar to how you have defined yourself before, then you might be able to survive in this world.  I don't mean living day by day, I mean experiencing the depths of earth-shaking, life-altering love in the culmination of the day by days of life.

This is why the decision made in regard to who to spend life with is so vital to who one becomes.  Change is inevitable.  Hurt, even more so.  Passion is a must.  Fierce devotion all the more.  You cannot falter in the face of fear, abandon your beloved for the sake of selfishness.

I don't know about you, but I've come to test the timber of my heart.  I've come to see that nothing is for naught.  Sacrifice.  Servanthood.  Dying to self.

You will get tired.  Your love will run dry.  So what then?

Seek the Source.
Keep on loving.

And please, do the world a favor...don't settle for someone who has a profoundly tender, passionate affection for you.  Don't settle for less than love even if it breaks your heart, because a heart can mend.  A soul, dear friend, cannot...

Choose a fighter with a few battle scars, not the Shakespearian notion of the fairest, yet fearful, of affectionate friends.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Imperfect Circles

...I wrote half a novel last summer.

And at the end of the summer, after I had written all the painful things I had to write, put a cap on my pen and turned the sheets over, to rest untouched in my desk during sophomore year.  I was at peace with its incompleteness, which is actually much more (novel) than it sounds, for me anyway.  I don't leave things undone.  I didn't know how to finish it, though.  I was afraid to write about a healing that might not last.  I was too attached to my own heart, to my own story.  I didn't think it was up to me.  But now I know better.

In February, I started a new novel.  Only come to find out it was an extension of the old one.  The story was not complete, and what I realized last night, was that I have a mandate to finish it.  I know now that despite how this circle ends, whether or not the line meets where I desire it to, healing has been had.  So far, the circle is not one that was drawn with a geometric plastic but by a child, a parent leaning over perhaps, guiding her hand with fear and trembling against the weight of an unfamiliar, profane pencil.

Happiness is not a sign of healing, although it can be a consequence.  Most of the time, though, healing culminates in changed action, in a shifting of the heart.  Health, vigor, are felt with a fervor.  Despite how my novel finishes, I have this.  It is unchangeable, irrevocable.

The Lord giveth and taketh away, but He allows some things to remain.  We discover them when the dust blows up, when we dip our toes in the water that once shocked us with its cold indifference.  We acquire a surface of knowledge for the cold, learn to relax our bodies into it, close our eyes and feel the pressure of the invasive waters.

For it is only then that we realize His hovering over them.

He is the Muse of the frigid deep.  And the pencil becomes lighter with each new but utterly imperfect stretch of line.

Turns out it had been Divine the whole time.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Ode to College Students

My last few writing endeavors have been of a sober quality, and seeing as I probably won't be writing another for a while because I'm headed back home soon, I figured I would end the semester with an ode to college students (although not a poetic one)...

Yesterday I was delivered a 1,000...correction- 1,252 page fantasy book to read for the month of May--the sight, including the deliverer with his bookbag weighing almost half his own weight (hardly a dramatization), was the catalyst to my sentiments about finals week, a week filled with late nights, black coffee, piles and piles of books, spontaneous laughter, and the playing of motivational songs (Destiny's Child's Survivor, anyone?)  And as the deliverer walked away, books shuffling on his back, I smiled to myself.  Welcome to the war of the printed word.

We come to dinner after the first day needing sustenance, exchanging stories of lengthy exams or monotonous study sessions encaged in the same four white walls all the day long--so that's what fresh air feels like.  The flowers are magnificent, the gray sky encapsulated in splendor, the thinnest blade of grass precious--Back to the dorm.  But we'll have you know that finals week is more than a test of endurance.  This isn't about who finishes--we are all expected to.  This is about how we handle it...I must say that the idea of finals has always deeply confused me, a type of gratuitous evil even.  I look around at my fellow classmates, and I don't know whether to be proud or saddened.  Many speak of agony and lack of understanding.  What are we fighting for?  It might help to take a look at our equipment...

Laptops, everywhere.  Digitized faces splayed back in reflection.  Meticulous scrolling, concentrated focus.

Large packs with two straps.  X-rayed to contain more books than one could possibly read in the hours that encompass a semester.  Piles of pens and pencils, highlighters, the assortment.

Glasses.  Tired eyes.  Messy buns.  Sweat pants.  The attire of the physically and mentally exhausted.

So there you have it--a typical college student.  But you see, we aren't so typical.  Because in a week filled with stress and tests and malnutrition, we find each other, where we are.  We notice that the flowers are indeed way too beautiful to exist, yet they do.  They do, and when this week is over, when we go back to what some refer to as the mundane, I hope that we can remember what it was like--a week of time tension, where it seems to stand still but spirals forward simultaneously, a week of disequilibrium that seems to contain an overflow of information that our minuscule minds can never comprehend.

Although we appear to be fighting, word for word, we fight for more.

It takes a week like this for us to really feel the refreshment of the rain, to embrace how our plans change as we walk through it to our next destination.   I hope we remember our communal plea that life is more than the printed word.

And that sometimes the mundane is actually magnificent.

Monday, April 30, 2012

His

The hardest blogs to write are the ones that don't have a clear direction from the beginning, the ones where you don't actually have an idea about what's specifically on your mind, what you want to share with the public world.  But then, they are also the best ones, because isn't life like that?  No matter your religious affiliation, or excuse me not to offend some Christians, our relationship with God which some don't consider a religion...we don't have a clear direction either.  I don't, anyway.  And honestly, I don't think you're the exception.  Within the Christian community, we like to sugar coat a lot, make things taste better.  But the Christian life is a bitter one, like all the others, and we do ourselves an injustice by using Scripture as a band-aid.  Scripture is a sword.  It is a comfort in times of trouble, yes, but it is a comfort to kill.  Let me explain.

The process of sanctification is a grueling one.  It is not for the weak-hearted.  Oftentimes under the facades we find ourselves internally bleeding with no cessation.  Where is everyone?  Sometimes we don't even know indeed that we are bleeding, and not just bleeding....we are bleeding out.  Into a type of unconsciousness that leaves us less than alive.  I would say that God stops the bleeding, but this has not been my experience.  He is the loving Father, I don't deny, but He believes in His children.  He doesn't undermine our tolerance for pain or our ability to wrestle through disequilibrium.  He wants us to come to a point where we don't know how to live anymore, where our cognitive capacities aren't sufficient, where our love wears thin.  Then He introduces us to Life.  And we realize that as we bleed out completely, as we empty ourselves and are emptied, there is still blood.  This blood doesn't grow thin or run out.

So when I claim to be His, I don't expect to always feel like the Beloved.  I don't expect my circumstances to actualize like the perfection I establish in my mind.  Because if my life was like a sitcom, I would wonder what happened to the God I serve.  I don't expect to understand His ways, because if I did, then He would just be some idea I contrived to make myself happy--a wish fulfillment god.

These words are easy to write, but they aren't easy words.  Especially since in our culture, the people who live by nihilism are seen as the tough ones, the ones who aren't afraid to face reality.  What presuppositions led them to believe this philosophy of life is reality?  This takes a lot of unfounded faith.  But if you're not afraid to face meaninglessness, then you're probably denying your own humanity.  That to me is not tough at all.  That to me is foolishness.

What does any of this have to do with anything?  Well.  As I spend this study break writing, finals pleasantly waiting for me, or not waiting for me, based on how sadistic your picture of cumulative memory-grinding, two-hour long exams is and whether you find any humor in personifying them at all, I wonder what the Christian fight against culture has done to our picture of God.  I mean I hear talk about the watered down picture of God, the loving One rather than the just One, but what if our picture of Him isn't watered down?  What if it's just the wrong picture?  God is loving.  Always.  Whoever decided that love is a cop-out emotion has definitely never experienced it.

The love of a friend speaks hard truths when the timidity of strangers doesn't permit it.  The love of a parent disciplines a child when all the parent wants to do is hug and kiss and baby the child.  The love of a boyfriend or girlfriend does not accept a false front for the sake of keeping the boat in stable water (If you want to live in calm waters, don't ever be in relationship...you can handle that boat alone).  The love of a husband and wife is a refining love, always seeking to understand.  At the core of a beautiful marriage, a husband and wife leave all clothing at the door, because this will not do for love's unmasking.  Perhaps we can never know the truth of a person just as on this earth we never can experience the oneness of an essence.  Yet, although we may not know the entire truth that is a person, what we do get, the partial glimpses, might at times be uninterrupted pieces of their fragile heart.  Maybe we don't want to admit to this.  We would rather believe we are being disillusioned by falsity, for what we see is not what we want to see, or want to be.

Was I false to you?
Be true to yourself, be true to Him, whatever comes.
Sometimes that means admitting you have no screens left to hide behind.  You have nothing but you--a person foreign to yourself even, harboring this malady, this malaise.

Then the touch of another is the most intrusive feeling in the whole world.
Your insides are open, and you're drowning in your own blood, or so you think.
It takes the people around you, and as you're looking at them, sorrow in your eyes, you see their hands covered.  In the sticky, sweet aroma of Love.
It is not yours.  It is not theirs.  But you know the Fount, and as you both look to it, you see something stark, surprising beside you.

A pale face.  White, pure,
            like Richard Wilbur's laundry sheets:

Some are in bed-sheets, some are in blouses, 
Some are in smocks: but truly there they are. 
Now they are rising together in calm swells 
Of halcyon feeling, filling whatever they wear 
With the deep joy of their impersonal breathing;

...
From all that it is about to remember, 
From the punctual rape of every bless├Ęd day, 
And cries,
       “Oh, let there be nothing on earth but laundry, 
Nothing but rosy hands in the rising steam 
And clear dances done in the sight of heaven.”

...
Let there be clean linen for the backs of thieves;
Let lovers go fresh and sweet to be undone, 
And the heaviest nuns walk in a pure floating 
Of dark habits,
        keeping their difficult balance.”

We don't make ourselves beautiful.  To be honest, if you have never encountered your true self and been repulsed, struck down by your false perception and your lack of insight, then I would venture the bold statement that you've never encountered your true self.
Nevertheless, when--no if, you ever do have this meeting, if you're courageous enough to seek, you'll find that we don't make ourselves beautiful.  But this doesn't mean that we aren't.
This does not mean that it doesn't exist--beauty.
This does not mean that you are not, beautiful.
Beloved.
    

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Moments to minutes

Again, I find myself with no time to actually write this entry, but these thoughts have significantly lodged themselves into whichever part of the brain handles memories and emotion enough to shake me up.  Something urges me to make some meaning of them.  Hence, putting the chaos of synaptic connections into some type of order, into symbolic language.

As the last floor meeting of the year unfolded early last night, my mind began to wander.  Pink sheets, yellow and blue, were handed around the circle, but I was staring at the inside of my own mind.  My RA was talking about how we should be conscientious to find her only when we are fully ready to check out so we don't waste time, as time is hard to come by these days with the last homework assignments and tests being finished, finals to study for.  She said, my time is valuable like yours.
Like yours.
And when she prayed for us, she laid blessing over this coming week and over the summer, over people who are leaving Wheaton, who are never coming back.
Never coming back.
And I wondered which moments, which collection of minutes, had made them decide that Wheaton wasn't the place for them, that they would graduate elsewhere.  And which moments, which collection of minutes had made me decide that I would.

I have "wasted" enormous amounts of time in preoccupation, in worry over grades and upcoming assignments, impending doom, I mean due, dates, over broken relationships, premature endings, new beginnings.
New beginnings.
And I laugh at thinking any of this time was wasted outside of the anxiety surrounding.  Because time wasted means not thinking about these things.  It means living apart from your own heart.  It means turning your back to darkness when there's healing to be had, when if we just reach a little deeper into the pitch black, we will hit our hands against a single light particle that is slowly expanding, expanding so slowly that the naked eye cannot detect.  This is when we realize that it was never really pitch black at all.  Perception.

I have never thought about maturity as something palpable, but it is--not tangible, but palpable.  I can feel the way I respond to conflict now, the shift.  I don't claim to have reached the apex of maturity.  Dante's picture of will is much more accurate than maturity happening in our earthly bodies.  But I can feel the tightening of my own soul, the closing in on myself, and watch as the string of truth from my roommate's mouth dispels the pressure, as the breath of God through the Holy Spirit collides with the air.  Don't worry about metaphysical distinctions.  This isn't one.

So this two year compilation of moments is fraught with emotional angst, confusion, frustration, doubt, interspersed with joy, peace, patience, and some goodness.  It's not a weighing of the two, though, that makes Wheaton worth it.  It's not a pro-con list.  It is the deep connection that happens in the spirit of the search.
It is the promise that when we encounter ourselves, the depth of our depravity, that someone, anyone will be with us groping through the dark.

I learn to hold onto the fear of God.
This is my experience.  This is my compilation of moments.  This is...our, very human and exhaustively exclusive struggle.  The analog click ticks forward, circular.  The digital clock passes the seconds, the minutes.
The time is drawing nigh.
My time is valuable like yours, they are never coming back,
of minutes that made me decide that I would,
beginnings,
new beginnings,
at all, perception, distinctions,
this isn't one,
the search...
...will You be with us groping through the dark?
This is not a question, for this is not perception.  It is promise.
It is promise, children of God.
It is promise.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Good night, Friend

After the first couple footfalls hit the prairie path yesterday, I should have known that I, we, were in for an adventure.  Part of me was eager for exactly this, the unplanned nature of it, to get away from my own thoughts, to actually see the sun's slant through purple flowers, the playfulness of school-aged boys running up and down the length of lush green grass in a yard where they had grown.  See, the temptation is to make this blog nostalgic in nature, letting it ooze with emotion.  But I dare not fall, because what I mean to say holds way more weight than nostalgia, holds my heart.

I sit here in Caribou feeling like a real writer, carving out time for just this purpose.  The road ahead is long, treacherous even, and I think on it with a chai latte in hand.  More than my single path though, I think of the people I've met along the way, the ones who are soon to leave, or whose presence in my life is changing for better or worse as we speak.  Fear threatens to incapacitate me, as I sit here, drinking my latte.  First world problems?  No, for life cannot be summed up in a hierarchy of problems, comparisons of whose are worse, whose are life-altering.  All problems are life-altering; we just remain unaware, living our lives, sipping our lattes, as the world spins madly on.  Yes, I did steal that last line from a Weepies' lyric.

Back to the prairie path...Maggie and I began our journey on a well-beaten path.  We knew the way to town, by heart, with our eyes closed.  The unfamiliar lake called out, enticing, asking us to step off the path so comfortable underfoot.  Then ensued a beautiful stroll around the lake--the water still, subtle, unmoving as we passed.  Neighborhoods outlined the streets, the uneven sidewalks thrown up by tree roots and time.

And then we were lost.  I mean grandly lost.  Direction became irrelevant as we headed left, up, south, east.  Nothing behind the word anymore.  Meandering across the streets, we embraced the feeling, of not knowing.  The trees overhead promised refuge from the sun, but no technology could point us back to Wheaton.  We had no phone in tow, no internet.  No watch.  Timelessness.  This was a somewhat scary feeling but precious, for we walked together, carrying the fire.  Carrying the fire, we walked, we ran.

My friend James is leaving Wheaton.  This is his last semester.  And I'm guessing he feels somewhat like the lost duo from the prairie path, meandering, trying to find his way in a land unyielding.  Only unlike Maggie and I, he goes physically alone into the unknown.  So James, I wanted to use this blog as a tribute to you, to who you've been in my life, to who you will be.
I have never met anyone quite like you, someone who I felt picked my life up by the middle and lugged it forward, over your shoulder like a fireman, unwilling to let go.  Constantly supportive, unconventionally honest.  Your eyes speak of adventure, of a life filled with more than books, more than schedules, more than artificial.  Being around you has made me realize that we experience God in different ways, different ways that are important to distinguish, because if we don't, we miss the heart of God.  I see the Lord in the commonplace, the everyday, in a cup of coffee, in a smile hidden beneath a tear-stricken face.  God shows up for you in the mountains, a stronghold amidst a rock cliff, a security hold like a standing belayer.  And I praise Him for being so vast yet so all-encompassing.  We meet Him most strongly along varying paths in our road, confusing times, the more shallow or the deep woods.
The other day when we ended a bittersweet conversation, you signed off "good night, friend."  Friend.  We should meditate on that word more often.  James, because of you, this word means redemption to me.  Loyalty.  A sacredness. The heart-wrenching confusion that threatened to strip me of all things good freshman year swallowed up that word for me because of its misuse, its deliberate abuse.  You are my friend.  The crossroads where we met was covered in dead trees, the path tangled by entrapments and threats from the whispering woods.  And when I look back to that time of my life, I only see a couple men of Christ.  One of them was you, with a green jacket and an orange backpack.  Smiling.  Present.

I promise that this picture of you is a memory, a perception of reality that isn't quite right.  However, the night we spent reading through Matthew, crying out to our Savior, is more than a memory.  It is forever engrained, etched into my cognitive capacities.  Because the Lord was among us.  And I'm nothing but grateful.

As you look toward the future, the next step of the present with fear and trembling, place these emotions not into the air of the cold woods or the tallest mountain but into the upturned hands of Christ.  When your soul becomes weary, burdened with the weight of the world, return to Authority, the ferocious and tender Son of Man.

The last thing I have to say, James, is most important.  Ironically, it's not even mine to say, not original, and you've heard it before.  But I need you to remember it when you can't seem to remember anything else.  I need you to remember as you go, when you look up at the starry sky and feel so small, insignificant, this you need to know--

                               not all who wander are lost.

And just for the sake of coherent endings, completion of circles, Maggie and I eventually found our way back to Wheaton.  More is at stake for you.  But then, you wouldn't have it any other way.  That, my friend, is heart.  Thank you for showing it to a world, a wilderness with nothing left save the dark.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Sleepless Nights


The second my blog turns into a journal, I have to resign as a blogger.  As if it's a career or something.  I don't journal.  Except for one area of my life, one in which I will never disclose on an open forum.  But.  That being said, perhaps my thoughts on this late, sleepless night may cause something in your heart to awaken, to truth, to something your heart is not ready to come to terms with, if it's anything like mine.

I'm exhausted.  Physically, and these days spiritually/emotionally--no use in distinguishing the latter two; they are one in the same.  Never used to be, but I'd like to think that as I mature, my spirituality will encompass all aspects of self, including the physical.  I just haven't fully enveloped myself in that yet.  This is beside the point.  The point is that I'm exhausted and that I'm embracing it.  Because I've come to a place where being tired and being weary are good things.  In my weakness, I am more willing to seek wisdom, more open to being renewed by strength.  And more willing to be okay with myself as I am without becoming complacent about my sin.  I never used to have a problem in regard to being okay with myself, but I think it's an important thing to wrestle to the ground.  Which is saying a lot--I hate wrestling. Watching guys on top of each other makes me sort of uncomfortable.  But in all seriousness, the reason it is so important to squirm within your own skin is that your senses are hyper-aware of what is being said around you.  When we become outward focused, we become our best selves.

I recently read a blog that intimidated me because the writing was solid, smooth, and the writer, who I had never before experienced in this way, he was honest.  He was courageous.  And I found myself critical of my own writing, the vast differences between my prose and my blog style, if it is even cohesive enough to call a style.  I was intimidated by his thoughts and the fact that he was sharing them with whoever took the time to read.  

Then I had a conversation with my roommate about life, love, trust.  An uncertainty arose in my chest, one that threatened to make me curl in on myself.  However, I have spent a year learning how to uncurl myself, and I know now that this position should only ever be taken in the present arms of God.  I wanted to write about this uncertainty, how it made me feel, how it made a pain rise up out of the depths, a memory.  I couldn't, though, write about it.  Because it still haunts me.  Late at night when I want nothing else but to forget, I remember.  I remember that the people who love me are patient; they help me uncurl.  They don't expect me to do it myself.  And the ones who have hurt me, hmm, don't dare try.  I live daily, love frequently, trust rarely.  I trust rarely.

I can't write about the memory to just anyone.  I share it in words to my roommate.  I allude to it with my mother.  But only God can see through my faulty attempts to express it, to let it out, to uncage it.  In my exhaustion, I feel it most heavily and know not the force with which it has created havoc in the sinewy parts I can't see.

But I'm afraid you can see it.  And that when you realize you do, that you always have, you'll walk away.  This is my deepest fear.  You did once, you did, so this time, what is making you stay?  It's not me.  This time I let you be, you're free.  But if you go, don't come back to me.

And the memory, the tree of life, remains unnamed in each of us.  All in separate ways, waiting to be discovered.  You might not like what is uncovered.  But it is true, yea, it is you.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Disorientation

So for the past couple days, I have been experiencing elevated amounts of disorientation, the kind where you wake up and have to remind yourself where you are, what day it is, why it is the time that it is, and why for the life of you the bed you lie in is ten feet off the ground.  Oh, you have a roommate, that's why.  But honestly, it's been jarring to be polite.  The last time I had bouts of this was more then a year ago, when a deep sadness left me stranded apart from my own heart.  These moments of confusion are strange and have seemed to be a kind of physical manifestation of the state of internal affairs...caused by unbelievable blessings or lingering sadness:

  Such as a childhood friend, like a sister, being receptive to the Gospel after 15 years of exposure,
the reality that the school year is coming to a close, and your best friend will no longer be your roommate and you will miss her dearly,
that the huge burden you have been treading through all school year has unexpectedly turned into blessing,
the realization that each moment is measured by what it contains, by your posture toward God.
Most importantly, that any of these things can change from true to false in an instant, for time is tenable and all that it contains, borrowed.  Makes us gratuitous for all.  But more than that.  Makes us fall to our knees for each pass of beauty.

I don't know what the actual psychological, or maybe more accurately physiological cause of this disorientation is, what my brain is doing in response to my environment, to my experiences as of late, that is causing such jolts of awareness.  All I know is that I am having them and that I can't help thinking, maybe God wants us to be like this with him--admittedly unknowing, receptive, confused, compliant.  Maybe He expects us to allow His Love this type of hold on our lives, so much so that we pause to thank Him for a pile of purple flowers when we turn the corner, that we cognitively recognize His grace in someone's smile, on their face.

His Nature is impressive, why do we come to expect it?
His Love is safe, why do we see it as a threat?
His will is perfect, why do we doubt it?
His grace is sufficient, why do we tell Him it's not enough?
His ways are mysterious, why do we say we know what He's doing?
He conquered death, why do we still insist on trying to find Life apart from Him?

Because we know not what we do.  And we know Him not.
And we refuse to remain in disorientation.
It's uncomfortable.  It's uncontrollable.
But when I wake up like this, there is one thing I never forget.
It is written on my arm.
I laugh, for the peace of it.  For the joy.
I am His.  The beloved.  Forever.
And this, it is the most disorienting knowledge of our collective, collateral existence.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Peace

I really don't have time to be writing this, but I think sometimes those are the best times to write.  Because you say what you mean to say exactly the way you want to say it.

I was actually about to close my computer when a thought found its way into my mind and stuck itself to one of my favorite verses, Philippians 4: 4-7--"Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.  Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus."

Peace.  I have always thought of peace as a type of emotion, I "feel" at peace.  But as my stomach has been in a nervous state for the past few days and friends keep telling me to rest in the Lord, I keep finding myself thinking but you don't understand.  Because my emotions are anything but peaceful.  Yet.  I smile when I think about God's peace.  It is SO MUCH bigger than the facade of feeling someone might call peace.  Yes, I am intuitive, and sometimes I do feel senses that I know are from all that is good.  One can have assurance, however, when your stomach is turning over on itself, when the future is so uncertain you could cry, when you don't know how to handle your own emotion.  God's peace isn't just emotional.  It's cognitive.  It's real.  And it can change your life.  So amidst all of this, I call upon the only Deliverer, the One from which all clarity comes.

My emotion may be messy momentarily, even for the long hall, but the assurance runs deep.  That I bring to the Lord my deepest desires and rely not on my own understanding but receive freedom from the violence of my warring flesh and spirit.  This my friends, is Power, Power of truth, nobility, and whatever is praiseworthy.  Including pure and passionate emotion.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Desire--be pained

It's been one of those days, one of those days where you own up to having desires that will never be actualized and that you hate that you have the desires at all.  It's been one of those days where you look back on your individual past and wish it wasn't yours, you look to the future and are afraid of what is to come and sit wondering why the present feels like an oppressive fog in the midst of both, closing in around you.  It's been one of those days where suddenly the impact of every human life dawns on you and part of you wishes this wasn't so because then you couldn't screw someone up.  It's been one of those days where homework seems trivial, and it's time to write a blog post, to settle into your own thoughts for a while.

Desire.  It is such a packed word, a word that essentially describes who we are.  And as I ponder my own desires, I'm in awe about how much I don't know about myself, about how fluctuating my emotions are.  I think we so often misplace our desires, make them something that we are not at our core okay with.  We rush to claim our desire as truth, but it doesn't all come from us as we are bombarded with the pressures of what others want for us or by a past goodness or by cultural influences, always enticing.  We should strive to be people of integrity, throwing off desire that is rationally unjustified and embodying that which breathes true life into our lungs.  This is a dying to self process.  It is pain.

The past.  Is selfish.  Events, tears, mistakes, haunt us, promising future resentment.  It lunges at us unaware, and we find ourselves grappling for a new experience to be rid of it.  Mmm, but the past is a blessing.  God uses our pasts to point us to purpose, to reveal to us our own hearts, and we do ourselves a disservice not to reflect on it.  This too is pain.

The future.  Is huge.  Grossly unknown, vastly open.  It is terrifying, and our desires trick us into thinking we presently know what is ours, what will be, what is best for us, what is best for others.  The truth, I don't know.  I am afraid.  And the presence of looming darkness threatens in the pain of the shaded light.

Influence.  You have a role in each of these aspects of someone's life.  Words that you had no idea were being used for God's glory were, and words you didn't mean to tear down, to break someone's heart, were used for just that purpose.  Your span of influence is wide, and you can't see it.  You matter to someone.  But I think primarily it's important to know that you influence yourself more than you know.  And from this, you taint the world with your perceptions.  This is humbling.  It can knock you off your feet.  It can scrape the air from your lungs in a whopping pound of pain and Life.

I don't claim to know the truth about any of these things extensively.  Actually, I write about them because I wish to know more.  I wish to know how I can learn how to be here, now, free.  It's funny though, because as I sit here, I know what Freedom looks like although I've never seen It.  I know the voice of Freedom in the wilderness, the promise, the covenant, although I've never heard It.  Although I have been led astray by my own heart, mistaken the feeling of slavery as the feeling of Freedom, I have learned to discern the purity of It amidst the yoke of burden.

And sometimes when I'm really quiet, I know that I am a child.  When my soul is still, I surrender.  For that small span of time, those days disappear.  Pain is not an ending but a catheter.  My heart desires--a passionate desire, is fully and irrevocably and tenderly actualized.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Brave Souls all around me

I sit here on a Saturday night thinking back on this weekend, and so many things are screaming at me to shout at once that I don't know how I will sort them all out in my head.  Honestly, it's already too late for that because I had this idea earlier on Wednesday or Thursday I don't know which, and I can't remember it for the life of me.  Epiphanies come at the most unfortunate times for me, times when I don't have a pen or a notebook, times when my mind is throwing sentences at me that I'll never remember later.  But I've come to realize that the times aren't really what are unfortunate, it's the state of myself when my epiphanies encounter me.  Usually I'm sitting in self-pity, doubting my abilities as a writer, telling myself I'm foolish for even wanting to be one.

But then.  Then I pick up "Meditations of a Movable Chair" by Andre Dubus, and I KNOW that I am a writer and that I can't deny it forever.  It's always other people who point me back to my calling, and they don't even know it...

The first one was my brother.  His birthday was this week, and he's far away, in LA.  But I got to celebrate him alone, talking with my mom, and really thinking about who he is, who he's become so far. And I can't help thinking, how brave, how very brave.  Both of them really, just got up and left for LA one snowy day and they're making their way.  I thought, when would I have the guts to do that, to stop following the status quo?  I don't know.

The second was Ashley, my brother's old high school friend who came by to visit.  She's going back to school, culinary school.  Because she doesn't want to live her life doing something she doesn't want to do, to be stuck in this podunk town with the nearest Walmart twenty minutes away.  I looked at her and said, "How cool."  And I felt a sense of life, of urgency, of youth, flood my veins.

Then my best friend Jessica.  Choosing between schools for radiology.  She talked about how choosing the one in Cedar Rapids was safer.  She already has living and a job after all.  But then she started talking about Chicago, and her eyes lit up.  Not just for the excitement of a change of pace but for a life not yet realized, of something bigger than what she had for herself.  For new experience, hmm, for life.

I was reading Dubus's vignettes, and I wanted to jump around the room, to run like a giddy child, because this is my passion.  And everyone should feel like this about something in their lives.  About multiple things, as I realized I feel the same way about relationships and students.  I will fight through fights with people I love because I believe in them, I will fight for the education of my students because I believe in them, I will fight to be a writer against all odds because I believe that stories matter.  And the reason I believe this is true because mine does, matter I mean.  And the reason it does is because God said so.

All of these brave souls believe in something transcendent, in something bigger than they can see.  Some would say it's foolishness.  I say it's faith.  And faith is the most beautiful adjective ever realized.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Home



March 5, 2012--it has finally happened.  Exactly a month after I turn twenty, my home doesn’t feel like home anymore.  Now don’t get me wrong--in some ways my home will always be home: it’s where I learned how to be me under the guidance of my parents, it’s where my dog died, and I watched my brothers’ music change over the years.  It’s where I escaped from the heartbreak of my first love and where the solace of the wind in the cornfields, a supportive family, and more importantly a God who thinks healing should take a lot longer than we’d ever imagine collided, and for this, I will always have deep-set sentimental emotions about home.


Nevertheless, there is something uncomfortable about it now, and it started in Walmart.  I was doing some quick errands with my mom, and as I looked around, I don’t ever remember feeling the way I did.  When my mom used to tell me about her friends who wouldn’t step foot in a Walmart, I always asked myself, Why?  What’s wrong with Walmart?  The funny thing is I don’t really think there’s something wrong with it even now...I just think I’ve changed.


My major issue with it was that people seem to have settled into this lazy, mundane life that they never wanted.  I saw tons of girls my age with their hair tied up in a ponytail, hair that looked like it hadn’t been washed or brushed.  They were wearing oversized hoodies and had this look on their face, like how did I end up like this.  Adults were the same way.  People that worked there, dead inside.  And I get it...maybe they have had really hard lives.  Maybe they never saw themselves working 9 to 5 at a Walmart in the middle of nowhere, but that’s the thing...the middle of nowhere has so much to offer.  I pull into my driveway and marvel at the beauty of an open field, the seclusion I’ve had the privilege of experiencing rather than being stuck in the craziness of city life.  When the sun sets, orange fire and purple streaks, glowing behind the silhouette of the silo, my breath catches.  When I entered college, deep down I never saw myself living anywhere else.  But now, as I walk through Walmart, I can’t help wondering where the soul of the Midwest is.  What happened to the cowboys who used to roam through it with a goal over the horizon and a lady in their hearts?  When did the breakdown of strength happen, when did people stop seein the beauty?  I studied a Hispanic woman wearing a bright purple shirt with a bright blue hoody thrown sloppily over it, and I wondered what in her life made her stop caring about the art of presentation.  I understand that some people don’t care about fashion, but this was something else entirely.  This wasn’t poverty or lack of fashion sense.  This was intentional, deliberate attitudes of I don’t care, and mindsets that think it is totally acceptable to leave the house in pajamas.  


I can’t live near people who don’t see the beauty in something.  It’s stifling, suffocating.  I want to be in a place where my students celebrate their diversity rather than stifle it.  What’s diverse about the farmlands of the Midwest, one might ask.  Well do you have any farmlands where you live?  Not everyone has experienced the serenity of the plain states.  So these children may have grown up resenting their setting because they see all these stars with these incredibly amazing lives, but they seem to have completely ignored the Lindsay Lohan specials about how many times she’s been in jail or the Michael Jacksons who molest kids in sadness or the Whitney Houstons who overdose on drugs because they have been so blinded about what’s good and honorable.  Their lives are hard, and sometimes money makes them harder.


As much as I loved growing up here, it’s not the same anymore, and it’s for the better.  I used to be so nostalgic while away at school about my town, my friends, the familiarity.  This place will always have a place in my heart, but it’s just one of many, not the only one period.  I want my home to be built around people who make me come alive, with places that are bursting with life, with fashion that proves people are still connected to their own confidence.  I want to be in a place where I’m inspired to write, and most of all, where everything screams of God’s glory through the brokenness and into the beautiful. 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

good-bye, mi vida...hello Life

I loved you once.  I love you still.  My emotion seem to make me ill...

Who put this notion into our heads: "Never give up on someone you can't go a day without thinking about?"  What does "never give up" even mean?  I've often found that people take this to mean you shouldn't give up hope on a relationship that deeply impacted you.  But what if giving up, or more accurately letting go, is exactly what you need to flourish?

In today's societal atmosphere, we find beautiful the love stories that endure, the ones where two people, however different, make the relationship work.  But because of this, we too often fail to realize what's staring us in the face--that perhaps the person you have fallen in love with isn't the person you should love intimately forever.  Maybe this person would end up being your unraveling. (By the way, I'm speaking to the unmarried.  Marriage is a binding and beautiful covenant and should not be corrupted)

I want to be in a love story.  I forget that I already am.  I'm in the greatest love story ever told, for I am His and He calls me beloved.  As I was sitting at dinner today with my roommate, she stopped, paused, and said in a quiet voice, "Thank you for loving me."  I thought about this for a while, and thought wow,  nothing like a deeply committed friendship to show you what future marriage between a man and a woman should look like.  I don't claim to know the secret to love, but I do know one thing: you should be with someone who wants to be with you, who lets you in.  And you should be with someone who is stable enough to love him or herself.

I don't give up on people, period, but maybe a long-standing emotion you have for a particular person isn't meant to do anything else besides point you to Christ.  People are beautiful, but something beautiful that is not left to become wilts into the shadows of darkness.  Stepping back from someone who you love but who you also want desperately to change can help you understand that love, although transcendent, can only bind you forever to One.

It's more important to be with someone who complements you than compliments you.  With flattery and camaraderie we often tie each other up in emotional attachment, but with it we string lies and deception that are uncovered only when the former disappear.  Love turned poisonous is deadly, and it is Satan's favorite weapon.

So here's to saying good-bye to what was in order to understand what is and anticipate what is to come.  Cling to what is good--love love, but let it not be perverted into a choking agent.
You may not end up with your first love, but the past you carry with you.  It is not a burden.  It is a testimony.  It is power.  It is forgiveness.  You'll always have Paris, my friend, no matter how much pain and suffering your heart endured, and that, is something worth keeping.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day

Today was such a collaboration of different emotions.  I had a great day--got a work-out in, received several Valentine's Day cards from dear friends, talked about the importance of emotions for normal cognitive functioning in philosophy with the poetic Dr. Wood, had dinner with a lovely friend, and went to night class.  But as I sit here trying to keep my mind focused to finish my homework for SCI 301, I can't help but feel like my whole world is zooming forward at the speed of light and time is escaping me.  Perhaps this has been on my mind because we just finished On The Road by Jack Kerouac in Modernism & Beyond, but it seems this way in every aspect of my life.  Soon the quad will be over.  I speed read through adolescent lit, barely skim the surface of the texts for science, and sometimes skip the reading for philosophy.  Yet I don't have a job, and the only outside thing I'm involved in at the moment is dance practice for Confessions and my neuroplasticity research team.

I'm not using my blog to vent, but rather to analyze what this means...I mean how much am I getting out of my education if I'm being rushed in every subject to get things done?  On the other hand, how can a college compete with other schools if this much work is not required?  By the middle of the week I'm almost a walking zombie, counting days til the weekend.  This has never been me before, and I start to wonder if my education is doing the opposite of its intent.

I'm exhausted. I want to stop and stand and look up at the sky.  I want to cherish every sentence and feel gratuitous for all the opportunities I've been given.  Instead I'm stressed, a frenzied American girl rushing around, and I'm trying so hard to keep my heart attached to my head.  It's so easy to fall into not feeling, not really letting anything into the will because so much is flooding into the mind.

Sometimes I want to take all the time wasted from my past and throw it into my present, but as I look back, much of that wasted time wasn't wasted at all.  I learned how to sit and do nothing, something I wish I could do, or even justify now.  Is time a precious gift or is it a constraint?  How much more could we do without it looming over our head, reminding us we can't have too long of a dinner without feeling guilty?

They always say what you put into your education is what you'll get out of it, but what if I'm pulled in so many different directions that I'm really no where at all?  When Jack Kerouac was in a place, he was in a place.  But we're not.  We're not on this earth permanently, we leave home, we leave college, and we transition from place to place.  Not only that, but it takes a long time for our hearts to join our physical bodies.  And way too often our emotions seem to follow the trail of our physical reality, never really investing in a person for fear that soon he or she will be gone.  We resist depth of passion and intimacy because we don't want to place our true selves in a place that will have to eventually be evacuated.

I've learned a few lessons in college: sleep > caffeine.  people > education.  love > detachment.  God > love.

But to function as a college student in Western civilization, the only way to put God first is to put Him in everything else.  Maybe this is how He intended it to be, or maybe this is the only way we know how to get by.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

3:00 a.m. thoughts

Do you ever feeling like writing at 3 in the morning, something that is visible to the public and not just for your own satisfaction? Yeah, me too.  Maybe it's my way of making a statement in an era where our connectedness has obscured each individual voice, paradoxically by trying to change Facebook into a personal timeline that makes each person just a chain of events.  I'm sorry, I don't happen to care what you were doing in 1996...

I do have a sentiment for the past and love to discover the past of those I care about but not in one sentence summing up location or "major events."  Please.  Let's have more dignity.  But this post isn't about Facebook at all.  In fact, it doesn't have a clear thesis although I do have some things on my mind...

I've been reminiscing lately about my childhood, how my parents raised me, my fondest memories, and the fact that few at Wheaton would even know what to do with it.  I've been thinking about what it would be like to be a missionary kid, to not really have any sense of home, or to feel, like someone said once, "In a way, everywhere I go is my home because the people I love are with me."  But I'm talking about the familiarity of knowing that this particular living room houses memories of your fourth grade year, sitting by the fire in an orange shirt, long hair in pigtails, your dad preparing the dining room table to make ginger bread houses with you, your dog rolling around on his back.  I'm talking about knowing the exact location of your house's cracks, knowing where to walk so the carpet doesn't squeak, laughing every time you cross the spot where you accidentally bleached the carpet while trying to clean up dog throw-up.  Or what about the yard where you learned to ride a bike in the spring, and in the winter where your brother dislocated his shoulder after building a ramp for his snowboard?  This was home for me, and it was sacred.

Everyone has a concept of home, whether it be concrete or not.  The disparity between some threatens to tear people apart, yet I'm not convinced it's the confusion about camaraderie of home that makes the split.  Instead, it's someone deciding that you're too different, that your story isn't worth hearing, that you'll never understand them.  People create the chasms and then wonder why they feel so distant.

You shouldn't settle for having friends or significant others in your life that don't respect where you've been, however humble, however outrageous.  Your past is part of you as is the perspective you have about it, and its sacredness should be shared with care.  I used to be of a different opinion but am now convinced that a sense of home will only be created between two people when both have submitted their fears of never finding it in each other.

And to those who think home doesn't matter, who go about wrecking it in their friends by ripping them apart with everything vulnerably shared, with accusatory guilt trips, save it.  Yes, I'm dramatic, I'm the first one to admit it.  It's in my blood--I'm half-Spanish...everything is extreme for me, I feel in extremes, but I also love in extremes.  And if the only way you know how to live is to criticize people who think differently than you, then you have a lot of maturing to do.  The strongest people are the ones who can admit that they're weak.  Where there is loss of love or friendship, there is redemption.  And we should be filled with nothing but gratitude.

Only in this posture can we examine ourselves rightly, and in turn, begin to cherish the longing for home housed in each of our hearts, placed there by the Living God, and forgive each other for the sin we perpetuate in getting there.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Expense of Knowledge

Lately I've been tripping over my words, unable to articulate exactly what I want to say.  Because of this, I've felt extremely isolated from several people, like I've been dropped in the middle of the ocean only worse because I don't know what words to use to call out.  This may seem like a dramatic description of loneliness, but it's not...it's more of a longing for something specific because of someone I used to know.  And honestly, I think this feeling, or sense of reality, rises parallel to an increase of knowledge.  The reason I say this is because my vocabulary has grown, and in turn, my knowledge of words that symbolically demonstrate exactly what I mean through language.  Therefore, if I'm talking and cannot find a word that will connote my exact intention, I get frustrated because I know it exists.  Not only does it exist, but it exists somewhere in my mind only I lack the ability to recall it.

Little more drives one to madness than knowing that which you desire exists yet is ungraspable.  I actually think this is the downfall of humanity.  However, God has brought the ungraspable to us through Christ, but somehow this seems like more of a metanarrative when compared to everyday life.  I'm not saying God isn't sufficient by any means, but I am saying we as humans sometimes long for what we don't have not because we don't have it but because whatever "it" is directs us toward Christ.  So when God withholds these things from us, He could be saying a multitude of things: 1) Recognize the inadequacy of that which is not Divine, like words for example.  Have patience with those who don't understand the unarticulated parts of you, and rejoice for the time I give you with those who do.  Let the latter not become idols, or they will eventually lead to your destruction.  For only I can know the disgusting nature of a sinful heart and still love you. 2) Wait.  Now is not the time to be given what you desire because you are not yet ready for it.  Trust.  Endure. 3) You have deceived yourself about what you want.  Be rational.  Remember. 4) I came so that you may have Life and have it to the full.  I will not withhold Life from you, but I may withhold knowledge for Life's sake.

Knowledge comes at a great cost.
So we may not find the words to ever have perfect communication, but don't take for granted those who connect with you through the unspoken.  They surely are few and far between.  And this, God most avidly knows.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

GRACE

I have so many thoughts in my head these days I don't know that I can coherently divulge them, but considering my audience to be much slimmer with my decision to remove Facebook from my life, I'm less worried about that and more worried about just getting them out.  So here goes.

Lately I have been feeling slightly neurotic from "morbid introspection" as our chapel speaker conveyed it. I've been going over and over in my head about how my failed relationship from two semesters ago was supposed to be understood by now.  It was supposed to have added significantly to my life and helped me live better, and in some ways it has.  But in a lot more ways it has confused me more, made me less inclined to listen, given me less patience with extremely rational people.  A lyric from The Civil Wars expresses my thoughts perfectly: "I don't love you anymore, but I always will."  And the always will part is haunting me.  Or at least I thought it was.  I thought it was keeping me from understanding why God put me through this.  I'm so utterly confused about my past & it's deeply affecting my present.  But as I began to come to grips with my true feelings, God intervened with a chapel message that seeped deep into my very core.

GRACE.

We have been justified through nothing else.
And I started reading in 2 Timothy 3: "But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days.  People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God--having a form of godliness but denying its power."

DENYING ITS POWER. Not being able to accept it.  I mean think on this for a second.  How do compliments make you feel sometimes?  They make you feel good but sometimes awkward.  Sometimes the source doesn't seem trustworthy, and sometimes we just flatly deny their claim.  But what if the compliment is directed back at the compliment-giver?  For example, your mom says, "I'm so proud to be called your mom."  This is a step in the right direction in grasping grace.  But even more than that.  What if you fell in love and your lover's eyes said it all?  Your lover is overflowing with abundant love for you, never tiring of your weakness or your insecurities, always giving, fierce in passion over you.  Your lover looks at you and you want to cry for the intensity of their jealous love for you.  There is no question--you are safe.  You are theirs.  Forever.  But even MORE than that...your Lover is flawless.  Omnipotent.  The Beginning and the End.  Has the last say.  Has spoken for your heart.  Intricately made you EXACTLY who you are.  Made no mistake.  This lover is Jesus Christ.  Not only do we reject what He offers but we claim something better.  We claim our control is more trustworthy--at least we understand it.  We don't though, not really, not even our own control.  Because we don't know the repercussions of our actions at times, and we don't know how they affect certain people.  It's a facade of control, yet we settle for it.  The thing is we don't do this because we don't think God's grace is good enough.  We do it because we are TERRIFIED.

We run from that which threatens to change us.  We are afraid of being daily brought to tears by something so unfathomable.  So we say instead, "It can't be."  God's grace can't exist, we justify, maybe not openly to anything other than our heart of hearts, because I don't know how to accept it.

HIS GRACE IS SUFFICIENT.

I have a form of godliness.  But up to this point in my life I have denied its power.  We keep working for our own salvation, trying to be better, trying to improve.  And God scoffs.  He thinks it's disgusting.  Our attempts are like the dirt on the bottom of a shoe.  What would it mean to live out of the grace of God?

IT MEANS YOU ARE ENOUGH. YOU'RE NOT TOO MUCH. YOU ARE A CHILD OF THE LIVING GOD.

He is fiercely devoted to seeing your sanctification complete.  And as our chapel speaker said today, our sanctification is learning how to accept our justification.

And as mini wanna-be gods, this takes us a lifetime.

We can claim no security except in that which sustains us.  He goes by many names, but He is one.  We can know no certainty in this world, but He is not of the world.

GRACE. Believe it.  Accept it.  And go forth, my child.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Inquiry of Quietness

Par request, and perhaps lack of responsibility on my part (that I don't have the book I'm supposed to be reading for class), I have decided to blog about my thoughts lately.  They are kinda crazy and not so well thought out and really personal, so that's your warning.  And, I'm not even sure if there's truth in them.  So there's that.

Now I'm rethinking if I should even post them...I mean why as a Christian would I throw something out there that might not even be truth?  Well, I guess because my point isn't really to come up with truth just yet, but to wrestle with what I have.  This conclusion I have come to because of my education reading for today...but enough of the boring stuff.

To be known or unknown, to be selfless or aware of self...these questions have been haunting me as of late.  I'm used to speaking my mind, to letting people know what I think and being bold in it...I thought I could do this respectfully, but a comment from one of my supposed best friends made me question whether I could: she said, "You don't share your opinion with any respect, ever."  At first I thought maybe she was right, and at times I know she is, but I had been overlooking something very, very obvious.  She was insecure.  She was competing with me.  Any chance she had to put me down, she took it, in the name of God of course.  I don't mean to bash her in any way because maybe in all of it she didn't mean to do it or she meant well.  Nevertheless, I began again to question who I was, whether I was good enough, why, after only a few years, this friend of mine didn't seem to like me anymore.  What was I doing wrong?  How could I make her feel good about herself so she could realize that I wasn't against her, that she signed me up for a competition I never meant to enter?

I thought, maybe I'm too full of myself and I need to learn to close my mouth, to be the humble one and to let others shine.  I thought maybe the way to find myself again in Christ was to be silent.  Really, to be someone else.  It took me a long time to realize, but you cannot intentionally be humble.  If you go into a situation and say, I'm going to be humble about this, ironically you're being the opposite.  Because you're thinking of yourself & how you're going to react.  This may be humility on the outside, it may even be interpreted as humility to the other person, but God who looks at the heart knows.  He knows & that scares me.

Where do we draw the line between changing our personality and being rid of sin?  I'm in this constant battle with myself, and as I write this, I'm convicted because I know the answer. I KNOW.  It's just that I want so hard to be holy that I try to get there myself.  I say, God, maybe if I try a little harder, if I'm more conscious of it, I'll change.  But that made me miserable.  I thought, looking back on today, who was that girl sitting in those classes, timid like she was afraid of herself, afraid of other people knowing about her?    That's not me at all.  I've never questioned this part of myself because I've never had to before.  No one has ever been so insecure with themselves that they start attacking me...and I had always been confident in who Christ made me...until I came to Wheaton.

Then there's the Bible, right?  It should hold the heaviest say in my life.  It says to be selfless, but does it say to be unknown?  I think this is where personality kicks in, although sin can definitely corrupt it.  It's where you stop obsessively caring what other people are going to think of what you have to say or judge you without a word.  It's throwing off the gross, disgusting baggage that people throw on you because you "ought" to be different, according to their screwed up standards.

Why do we ever answer to anyone besides God?

For if we seek God first, we gain the wisdom needed to answer to others for our actions as well.

I'm also really drawn to quiet, contemplative people, and I think that's what made me want to be that way.  I have to face the truth though...that God has a purpose for me WITH my personality type and that the time I spent trying to model someone else besides Jesus is time wasted.  I can't be indignant about the time that has slipped away because of how I've let some people in my life walk all over me, but I can reclaim my identity in Christ.

Last thoughts: The body of Christ is beautiful.  I'm not talking the screwed up agendas and politics, the misinterpretations of Scripture and the claims that God is on our side.  I mean the real, authentic body of Christ, the Holy Spirit that dwells within every true follower and brings about our flourishing.  We have to realize, however, that each is created uniquely in the image of God.  Some people are most comfortable being unknown, being quiet, until others take the time to know these people.  And then there are people like me, the ones who are comfortable with vulnerability, who would be lying to themselves if they tried to hide themselves away, and who deeply want to know those who are unknown.  I think the heart of God belongs to both.