Occupy Life: Spanish at an Irish pub

This is another in a series of posts called Occupy Life. Each day you and I occupy physical time and space, making bold statements about what is most important in this life (whether we’re holding picket signs or not). Other entries: pancake battertying ribbonsAlejandra,  Lunch HourDelaney and Roland or the original post Occupy Life: Things One Might Do While Unemployed. The scene is an unlikely one - Iowa's attempt at a small Irish pub - but as good a place as any to brush up on my rusty Spanish skills. I've given up thinking my heart is capable of uprooting and replanting an endless amount of times. Instead, I believe my heart has magical roots that span states and countries and oceans. And maybe for that reason, I still kind of introduce myself as 100% catracha. If you don't understand, then you probably aren't Honduran. But, it might explain why the invitation to tell stories of Honduras in Spanish made my skin tingle.

The excitement came like a flood as I talked about all the faces and places and valleys and mountains that led me to discover a fuller picture of my God. And then I realized my words tripping over words may not make any sense to my friend - especially in Spanish. I offered to switch back to English, but my friend said my blabbering was preferable to Rosetta Stone.

And then it hit me. The words flew out of my mouth accompanied by hands waving and another wild (probably unflattering) smile stretched across my face, "a la orden!"

"A la orden" is a Spanish phrase that means, "at your service" and it was thrown around as often as Midwestern "hellos" when I was in Honduras. I noticed whenever one of my high school girls complimented another on an outfit, the response was always, "a la orden," which meant that the outfit or shoes or whatever could be borrowed at any time. It was "at their service." I started to think that we should have the same response whenever anyone compliments our talents.

My friend looked amused. I was trying to gather my jumbled excitement and put it into words... words that could somehow communicate how passionate I am about this idea that NOTHING I can do/say/sing/write/give is mine. Nothing. I don't own my talents. There is no Caroline Copyright on my abilities. It's ALL the Lord's and it is ALL on loan for the purpose of loving God and serving others.

Right there in that cozy, Irish-looking booth I gestured and exclaimed and squealed and probably got more excited than the average, sober Irish pub-goer. But it was like re-discovering this beautiful Truth in a new context called Ames, Iowa.

I live here. I work here. I serve here. How can I love God by making my every talent available to others?

Oh, you like my whimsical bubble letters? Let me know when you need a poster made. Oh, you like the way I chase your kids around? Let me know when you need a night off. Oh, you like my acapella singing at work? Let me know when you need a karaoke buddy. Oh, you're looking for a Spanish speaking buddy? Let me know the time and place.

Seriously, just TALKING about a la orden makes my heart sing.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy by turning compliments into acts of service

does God giggle?

Apparently, Iowa has a high tolerance for awkward as well.My state made caucus a verb (it was a strange enough noun).

Yesterday, after my very gauche post, my best friend from college sent me an email with this little inspired nugget to capture the lengthier explanation. I love it.

Oh, goodness. I love how a friend can still know you so well, but live so far.

Today I laughed with gumption and it felt spectacular. I'm not sure what to hold responsible, but if I figure it out I'm going back to say thank you. In fact, I wouldn't mind doing some gratitude back-tracking right now before hitting the books and my sweet pillow.

here's some blessings as I counted them today:

the early morning moments when I sit with my coffee and my 3650 Challenge, soaking deep in Truth. the acoustic guitar in the office singing bon iver, adele, and hanson. dreaming about an office space where inspiration happens and stories unfold. the office printer, when it does and doesn't work, is a magical machine. check marks - oh heavens! I am ever-so-thankful for checkmarks in even slightly important places to make me feel legitimate and productive. finding a remote control car in a co-worker's office; laughing like a child. forgetting my lunch and then getting invited to hang with the cool kids. wearing my thrifted boots (thanks, Dad) that make my feet feel like snuggly eskimos. chasing around my cousins and hearing their laughter unleashed. the balance of cousin cate, who loves make believe and cousin charlie, who loves to cuddle.

mischief.

I know it sounds weird, but I can get riled up (in a good way) about some good-old fashioned mischief, the same way I get excited about mystery. I kind of think they are related. And, I'm going to go out on a limb here and say I think both are, um... holy.

If you've read Chesterton's The Man Who Was Thursday, then you've at least thought about how God must have a perfect sense of humor and maybe you've wondered (with me) a little bit about what that humor looks like.

I mean, have you ever wondered why we have armpits or why every blade of grass is distinct or why things like treehouses are places where children play, but where insects probably reign?

Do you wonder what His laughter sounds like? I often do.

What did God think of the caucuses in Iowa tonight? Does He giggle at that funny word?

I don't know, but I'm sure excited to find out one day.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

come awake in 2012

Waking up was hard to do this morning, but smiling at this golden beginning to a new year was pretty easy. Yesterday was an exhibition in overflow. Yesterday splashed like crazy with "my cup runnin' over." God keeps pouring more of Himself (Romans 5) out through His Spirit and I can’t help but burst with joy. The more the Spirit pours out into my life, the more overflows everywhere else. .gelato and coffee and conversations with cousins, with the right overdose of laughter .folding up into a perfect sized hide-and-seek closet, awaiting the spirited search and discovery .the other side of sunset - the expanse of sky gathering up all the reflections and hiding them in clouds .hay bales piled on top of hay bales and warming in the unseasonable sun .car rides riddled with conversation with my sister, where our friendship is given deeper, livelier roots .a NYE celebration with new friends who live spur-of-the-moment and believe that laughter can be holy .neighbors with open doors and friendly greetings and stories to share .sweet sleep in a warm cocoon and a dawn that brings a fresh start

overflow

The burnt, lifeless leaves sweep up into a circling wind outside the kitchen window and shake away some of the Sunday afternoon reverie. The chorus from this morning's service seems stuck in my soul,

Christ is risen from the grave trampling over death by death Come awake, come awake Come and rise up from the grave

The bold dawn has cast out the shadows of this day, this year, this sickness, this fear, this life. We are living the already, not yet life where dawn claims victory over the darkness of night in prelude to the Forever song. Today is a post-Easter, pre-Eternity day where we can rise up from the grave of death because in Christ it has no sting!

Today, I'm praying my heart would come awake to God's heart. I'm praying my mind would come awake to the Word. I'm praying my actions would come awake in obedience and my life would come awake in Truth.

I'm praying I will live 2012 awake, eyes wide open in search of blessings to name and receive and count and respond with a life of gratitude.

May you all be blessed in 2012 with awakened hearts and minds, that you would pursue the Lord with everything in you, knowing that He will be found by you.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy in 2012!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3_NrB2iBqh8]

exhausted by joy

(First, I must admit that I've only just now recovered from a very colorful verbal exchange with my computer after it lost this entire post into the unknown cybersphere. As I go back and try to remember it, I can't help but think it's a little ironic.) I have so many plausible excuses, really I do! Chasing after early morning 2-year-old squeals and filling the night with laughter, for starters.

There's something about Christmas that won't let me sit down and spell it out, blog style. The rumble of excitement as family exchanges gifts with the lengthy explanations from every giver, the soaking in of silly faces with people who live too far, the together-ness that makes memories on it's own... This joy can be exhausting!

It'll park your eyes at a willing, wide-open stance. It will put dances into your toes. It will make you "poke the bear" until the bear revolts with a playful roar.

It will fill the air with delicious, contagious laughter that (I'm sure) seeped out from under the old wooden doors at my parent's house and warmed the night trees.

Exhausted by joy.

I wonder if C.S. Lewis would say we are as likely to be exhausted by joy as we are surprised by joy. Well, I submit that it is so.

I wonder if Mary and Joseph were exhausted by joy. I wonder if, when Mary finally gave in to sleep, she felt more than just relief that her vagabond pregnancy had ended. I wonder if Mary's soul was so full of joy at the coming of the Messiah that her heart got tired.

I wonder if receiving blessings and naming them in thanks can bring a good kind of exhaustion - one that wearies your bones into a prayerful posture.

I wonder at this beautiful Gift. Christ, our Substitute for the debt our flesh owes. Christ, our Provision for an eternal abundance of joy. Christ, our Hope.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

the blessing and the mess of it

How is it that the political push for presidency has made a mad rush at the Advent stage? I have friends - good friends of mine - who have reasons and schpeels and thoughtful arguments about who I should support in the next election. After being out of US politics for three years (not that there wasn't plenty going on in Honduran politics to keep me occupied), walking around inside its borders feels like another case of the blind leading the blind.

Don't get me wrong, I'm thankful.

I'm thankful I don't have to worry if the policeman pulling me over is legit. I'm thankful there aren't men with large guns guarding every fast food restaurant. I'm thankful I can open my Bible in a coffee shop.

But, it's not perfect.

Liberties, freedoms, greed, possibilities, money, truth, defense, cause... sin - the blessing and the mess of it are mixed together like a good, Midwestern casserole and sometimes it's hard to tell what ingredients were thrown in.

Reminds me of the human condition - the blessing and the mess of it.

We've got people occupying Wall Street because there's a bunch of money they don't have. We've got people marching in support of our troops, who are marching in other countries. We've got people rallying to bring those troops home - for good. We've got people protesting abortion clinics and people protesting the elimination of them.

We've got a bunch of sinners in this country, can you believe it? I don't know how that happened.

Wait, yes I do. And I know the way to redemption. His name is Jesus.

God knew, before the foundations of the world, that we would make a mess out of His perfect Creation. He knew we would kill our brothers and hate our neighbors; that we would spit in the face of His provision and throw away manna like it didn't just fall miraculously from the sky. He knew and He still provided a way.

His name is Jesus.

Nowhere in history can we see a glowing story of human victory over evil. Nowhere in history have we ever been able to redeem ourselves or pull ourselves out of the deep, dark pit called evil with our own strength.

There is a way.

His name is Jesus and God planned that He would be born into the blessing made mess called Creation, so that He might restore us into right relationship with our Creator.

O Come, O Come Emmanuel.

God, come and be with us. Show us the way into beautiful. Come, disperse the gloomy clouds and put death's dark clouds to flight. Bring the brilliant light of salvation.

Jesus is the only way to truly see beauty in the blessing and the mess of this life.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8UGaDcQcFKk]

now is the season of our content

Now is the season of our content, made glorious by this Son of Man. If you're not up on 14th century Shakespearean references, let me put it this way: I'm overwhelmed by this season called content, made glorious by God who made Himself humble so we could be made whole.

Not "content" like the subject of an essay or the the topic of a seminar, but "content" like a peaceful state.

Facing winter is not necessarily a peaceful idea, after living in Honduras for three years. I have resigned to the fact that, for the amount of layers I must wear, winter will simply not be an attractive season. My bones feel brittle and only thaw out under multiple thick blankets about the time I have to climb out from under them in the morning. I will always, always drink a scorching hot cup of coffee at the expense of a burnt mouth if it means circulating a little warmth.

No, the cold winter months do not naturally bring contentment.

Thankfully, this season of content began with a joy safely hidden away in a deep place that made things like driving a tractor an adventure and a blessing.

Today is the second day at my job - the answer to many, many prayers and the conclusion to a humbling, cross-country, beautiful, and tiresome search.

The funny/wonderful thing is that I don't have that "I didn't realize I was holding my breath this whole time" sensation where if I hadn't gasped for air I might not have made it. I'm pumped to work in ministry and live with open eyes for the ways God has called me to live intentionally, but not because I've been waiting with bated breath for an assignment.

The Lord provided, in His grace, so many reassurances of His sovereignty along the way  (jobs, community, fellowship, friends, laughter) that I couldn't question His method (or timing).

My own broken record of advice to students (stolen from several places) was always, "Enjoy life. Pursue the Lord and you will pursue the greatest Treasure. Love God so much that you are ruined for anything else. The greatest joy you will ever find is hidden in the mystery of grace - the Son of Man."

It is this advice that played over and over in my head in those solitary days farming the corn fields in a tractor and the hours spent staring at job listings on a computer screen.

It is this Truth that the Lord is gracious and sovereign that buoyed the deep joy of my soul above the rough waters of transition.

It is with Paul I strive to say that contentment is always possible - in every season and circumstance because there is not a day when He is not victorious.

let LOVE fly like cRazY, my friends!

Grace > Gratitude > Joy

Spurred on by the thoughts of Ann Voskamp, I love exploring the connection in the words of gratitude and grace and joy. I've reflected on the Latin connection of grace and thanks, when I discovered they are nearly the same word in Spanish (gracia and gracias). The added element of JOY could not make more sense in my personal experience of Christ ALIVE in my life.

Voskamp writes about the greek word eucharisteo,

It means thanksgiving in Greek. My life’s struggling to pronounce it, that word that’s set like the unexpected crown jewel in the center of Christianity, right there at the Last Supper before the apex of the Cross. When Jesus takes the bread, gives thanks for it, that’s the word for his giving thanks: eucharisteo. It’s like a language lesson: in that word for thanksgiving, eucharisteo, are the roots of charis, grace, and chara, joy. If you can take all as grace, give thanks for it, therein is always joy.  Eucharisteo –  grace, gratitude, joy – one word that God in flesh acted out when he took the cup.

It's like sitting in the eye doctor's chair and thinking there is intentional sabotage in play, until he hits your visionary sweet spot and everything becomes crystal clear. The fuzzy shapes and letters become distinct lines with distinct meaning.

In this case, eucharisteo allows us to really see Christ and His provision through grace, our response through gratitude, and His invitation to joy.

Christ is our provision of grace.

Our response is thanksgiving.

The result is joy in His presence.

Do you need another cause to be merry?

happy Saturday, my lovely friends! let LOVE fly like cRaZy

living in a miracle

I'm taking a crash course in living right now from one of the loveliest ladies I know. I'm following my textbook around as she lives and a more riveting account of a life you will not find. I've always been told the best classroom is life itself, but I've never learned quite like this. This living autobiography dabbles in comedy and tragedy, philosophy and religion, history and modern culture. I'm flipping through pages like crazy in these days and overwhelmed that what follows is always just as genuine as what came before.

As we're climbing over rocks or talking with protestors on the street, she's not satisfied to accept an expected explanation. She's a digger and she doesn't stop until she hits gold, whether the topic is parties or pleasures or philosophies. And she doesn't make things up, either, to make the digging easier. She does her research until arriving at a conclusion that fits the weight of the question and then she holds that conclusion humbly.

This girl's life is not full of roses and robust resolution, but it is authentic (in the innocent sense we lost when "authentic" became fashionable) and it is teaching me great Truths.

Life is full of miracles. Currently I'm living in a miracle called, "God transforms a life."

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

Who are some of your favorite teachers of life? 

"The only Christian work is good work, well done"

My days seem to only get more random. I know that sounds strange, coming from someone who most recently drove a tractor for work, but it's true. I have a high tolerance for random schedules, but this ordeal is making even me a little fidgety. So, I'm starting this day simple, with this reminder from Dorothy Sayers,

"The only Christian work is good work, well done."

If I'm ever confused or disheartened or worried about what exactly is work, I just remember this. I must do whatever is before me and I must do it well, because doing it any other way would be, well, not Christian work at all.

There's really no other option. We're made in the image of a Creator who was only capable of good work, well done. And we are redeemed (after royally messing up) by a Savior who accomplished the greatest work perfectly on the cross so that we can set out to do good work well for the glory of our Father and with the greatest joy.

(sigh)

Wednesday, hit me with your best shot.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

harvest things

I got a little ahead of myself last time when I thought my harvesting days were over. But, now I think it is officially official. I thought it appropriate to share some funny things I've learned and a few snapshots I was able to take when I wasn't busy operating heavy machinery. 1. Desperate times may call for desperate measures .... and corn shucks can come in very handy.

2. Interpreting sign language wasn't part of the job description, but it was very important to understand the hand signals coming from the combine when I was without a radio. - Hands shoulder width apart, palms facing down (some might interpret this slow down) meant stay where you are (also sometimes accompanied by both hands spread outward in a "he's safe!" kind of motion) - Index finger point in the direction of the truck (semi) meant take the load back and switch tractors. - One hand, palm facing inward motioning quickly meant follow me. - Index finger pointed upwards in a circling motion meant turn around and follow me. - The universal 'one hand across the neck' meant STOP whatever you are doing.

3. That little knob on the steering wheel is BRILLIANT! At first, I thought it was more like a tumor on a normal steering wheel, but I quickly realized how useful it was for sharp turns. Sometimes, when Eeyore was working on a long row, I would practice (slowly and carefully) backing up so I could be prepared if the need ever arose (and it did!).

4. Some little kids (boys) don't believe it's possible for a girl to drive a tractor and will say, "You're a girl, you can't drive a tractor," while he is riding in my tractor. Some girl tractor drivers might get defensive. 5. I never really shook off the nerves of driving such important, big, and expensive equipment. Eeyore said that was alright.

6. One time, I was driving with Partner and it was one of the loooooong days. I guess there isn't a pre-requisite for my loopy stages, but this was one of those times. I told Eeyore a joke on the radio... and he didn't hear. I said it again... and he didn't hear. I said it a third time and THEN realized I was talking into the wrong side of the radio. There are only two sides.

7. I didn't really ever step foot in the combine (which I'm glad for because there were LOTS of buttons and computers and chances for me to screw something up!). But, Eeyore did enlist my help to oil the chains. Every once in a while we would stop and I'd climb up and sit in his seat (where my feet wouldn't touch the ground) and I'd push the only three buttons I knew - so he could oil the combine chains.

8. I've got to be honest, I think it takes a special kind of person to farm. It's you, your machine, and the field ... ALL day long. As Eeyore would say, I "have the gift of gab" so the time spent harvesting these rolling hills has been a bit of a stretch. Farmers can only take so much "gab" and it's important to be sensitive to the limit. I had my journal and studies with me, but I had a limit too. One time, at AWANA, I was running around chasing kids and some parents were kind of looking at me like, "where in the world did you get that energy?" and I just explained, "I've been trapped in a tractor all day long!"

9. I learned a bit about farming and tiling and terraces and yields. Mostly, I can throw around terms that make a lot of sense to some people, but I tried to store away useful information (just in case my contribution to a commune someday is as a farmer). For example, these days you will see only one ear on a stalk and they are engineered that way because it allows the plant to focus on producing one very healthy ear of corn instead of splitting it between two. This also means the stalks are closer together.

10. There is nothing like an Iowa sunset.

it's a [good] conspiracy

Well, right as I was walking out the door this morning to the field, I got a call. To be honest, I couldn't quite understand it all, but I did get, "We've gotta work on the ... and we won't be up 'n runnin' right 'way this mornin' ... I don't know how long it'll be ... but I'll give ya a call." I'm kinda bummed. I had my lunch ready and my coffee almost in the travel mug. I'm more bummed because this is a perfect morning for harvesting. Clear skies, sunshine and a chance to break out some serious layers to shield off the winter-ish breeze. I guess I'm even more bummed thinking about Eeyore trying to figure out and fix the problem in time to tackle the rest of that 90 acres like we planned.

On the flip side, I've got a little time to write. I've been farming by day and nannying by night, so I'm nearly worn out when I finally settle in. Yesterday was particularly stressful because Eeyore came over the radio, "Hey, Caroline? Why don'tcha follow me 'round ...I'm gonna outline this field and I'll dump 'long the other side there ... This'll be a real test of your driving skills ... I don't want you hitting corn, but I don't want you fallin' in the river either."

On the radio I said, "Tests make me nervous!"

In my mind I said, "WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT "TEST"? This whole thing has been a test and I'm not just talking about my emotional well-being after returning from a developing country to be rejected by countless jobs and still uncertain of my place in the world. I'm also talking about driving a tractor at all. Now you're telling me I've got to squeeze into a six row path with certain death on one side and certain employment death on the other?

Of course, I went. And he wasn't kidding. I felt certain some of the corn was unfairly leaning out in my path and the steep ravine was unfairly jagged and unpredictable. With nothing short of near-hernia, I made it and felt pretty accomplished.

This whole thing (being somewhat professionally stuck) could be a big conspiracy to keep me humble and I wouldn't be human if I wasn't fighting it. Speaking of conspiracies... when I'm not following Eeyore around in the tractor or cracking jokes with Partner, I'm either reading or writing or doodling or all three.

I've already started writing/doodling my Advent Conspiracy list! If you don't know what Advent Conspiracy is, check out the video below. The idea is that Christmas ≠ consumerism, so our preparations should reflect that. If we give gifts of presence (time together), then what we treasure is each other and not just something in a box! I also try to make most of my gifts (which can get tricky for the boys in my family) and this year I have a new source - Pinterest. There are so many clever and crafty ideas - from baked goods to stuffed animals from old gloves! Anyway, apart from enjoying people more and tapping some of the creative genius we all try to ignore, we also save money by giving this way. The Advent Conspiracy suggests there are some really amazing things we can do with it!

[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/30556886 w=400&h=225]

[AC] Promo 2011 from Advent Conspiracy on Vimeo.

So, maybe it's a good conspiracy that I'm farming... and even that I'm able to take moments like right now to process ... and apply for yet another job.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

rained out

Well, this morning started out soggy, but I had "high apple pie in the sky-y-y hopes" for harvesting... and then I got to the "far north side of the field by the cow field" and walked the muddy way to the tractor. A couple hours after I got there, we had to pack up and leave because the rain seemed so persistent.

So, I traded my cheese sandwich for grilled and my bottle of water for steaming coffee and my walkie talkie for a laptop and the firsthand farmer lingo for a secondhand re-telling. After my "10 things I learned in Iowa harvest" post spread around the family like fire, I realized if I target the Midwest audience, then my readership could explode! Not that I care about how many readers I have... it's just funny to me that I can write a blog pretty regularly and the biggest response I get is from my comical/embarrassing experience with Iowa farmers.

I thought I better at least take one more shot at sharing my perspective on farming (since the rain is keeping me from the fields). I've learned a few more things since that post...

  • First, the farmer (Eeyore as we call him) is not so sure his identity is as concealed as I promised. Within hours of my post, he came over the radio, "What's this Eeyore business?" and I responded, "I don't know, you tell me. I didn't put any names in there..." pause "Well, e'rbody's figured it out then..." Sometimes, I just giggle because I don't know what to say. So, just to make things clear - I have not given any names and the names that are given are changed to protect the innocent. That goes for "partner" too. If my descriptions match someone you know, it is only by coincidence.
  • Second, I drove with my cousin (the third grader who is qualified for my job) and I'll be honest - I was nervous. I thought he'd get in there and push all the right buttons and drive circles around my anxious jerking. Well, turns out I can sleep a little better at night knowing that he's not quite ready to take over.
  • Today, I am proud to announce I moved up in rank (of course I've made up 'ranks' so it feels like I'm getting promoted and if you're about to question it, don't - it was my birthday last week). That's right. Today, I got to drive another tractor and it was different in every way. The transmission was a gear shifter, the buttons were all in different places. There was A - F and then 1-2-3-4 in each letter. The clutch is essential is this machine and oh! I forgot to mention that there is a very large obstruction in the form of loader arms right where I count the 5-6 rows out for on the go loading. I got a 5 minute tutorial from my partner and then off I went, picking up a load on the go. I haven't told Eeyore, but I'll expect a badge tomorrow.
  • So, partner and I cover a pretty wide variety of subjects between the tractor tutoring and the unloading. I've been storing advice on WAY more than tractors (he's probably trying to forget the things I say). He's also super encouraging, like when I learned the new tractor today he said, "Well, hey! You're a natural," even though I was obviously struggling. He said that people just assume girls can't do things like drive a tractor, but he says he can teach anyone. I also know now that it's harder to load corn on the truck on the road because it's level and that dry corn unloads like water. I know that you can go 40 mph in a truck chasing deer in a field and I know the human body is capable of a 24 non-stop road trip (and much other anecdotal advice). I know that he doesn't like my weird music and that a certain pair of jeans with holes will always be my "sunday jeans" (because they are hole-y). I have to share one conversation that (he would say) reveals a bit of the blonde farmer in me: "I hate it when people call me Carolyn. I mean my name is obviously Carol-ine so people should pronounce it that way." "How is your name spelled?" "with an i-n-e" "C-a-r-r-o-l-l-ine?" (joking) "Yeah, C-a-a-r-r-o-o-l-l-i-n-n-e-e" (blank stare) "No, of course it's C-a-r-o-l-i-n-e" "Well, that's not how I would spell Carroll" "Oh, well that's how I spell my name - C-a-r-o-l-i-n-e. How would you spell Carol?" "Well, my aunt's name is Carroll and she spells her name C-a-r-r-o-l-l" "Well, that's not how I spell my name!" "That's not how my aunt Donna spells her name either" (long pause and puzzled look and then serious) "Well, that's not even the same letters!" (laughter) "Hey!!! No blonde jokes!" and so go our conversations....
  • I wish I could record how the grumblings go over the walkie talkie. I'm working up to a real good impersonation and it's kind of scaring me. I can't decide if I'm copying what I hear or if it's actually starting to be how I talk. I can carry on a good five minute conversation about yields and head rows and moisture and fields and weather. I surprise myself (and then I realize I don't really know what I'm saying and so I'm not a complete farmer yet). Here are some funny things I've heard over the radio:
  1. "Well, it's pretty rough in here... better unload there at th' end." Translation: You're good, but you're not that good. I'm not taking chances on your driving, but I want you to think the field is responsible.
  2. Me: "Sorry about that, I was SO close but SO far." Eeyore: "Close only counts in horse shoes and hand grenades." Me: "I'm not good at those either."
  3. Eeyore is waiting with auger out, ready to unload. Me: "We had to cut a tree..." Eeyore: "Cut it or pull it out at the roots?" Me: (Oh, crap) "Uh.. well, we cut it but pretty low down" Eeyore: "You gonna come back next year 'n cut it again?" Me: "Well, that sounds like pretty good job security I guess." Eeyore: "Sounds like a government job." Me: "That's why we're broke." Eeyore: "Yep."
Well, I guess I might as well make an apple braid today. I've been wanting to try this recipe and today seems like the perfect opportunity to put some fresh Michigan apples to good use! And, yes. I will be cranking the Christmas music - I firmly believe there is NEVER a wrong time to sing "O come all ye faithful."
What will you do to
let LOVE fly like cRaZy
today?

on mission

A year ago tonight I was in the middle of a tutoring session. Yes, I was teaching my girls how to make sushi because I invited them to my house for my birthday party. And, yes, when I say, "girls" I mean the beautiful ladies I was led to disciple while I lived in Honduras. They still don't believe I'm the age I am ... all the laughter and silliness and games and conversations until 4 am simply HAVE to make me a mere 20 (and I'll take that any day!). Here's Elena making her sushi roll!

Today seems so very far from that laughter crowded night, but the Lord is always drawing me ever closer to His face. After driving to Waukesha, Wisconsin (roughly 7.5 hours) on my birthday to pick up a missionary/friend at her school and driving back on Friday (roughly 9 hours if you figure in our "detours") to bring her to the missions conference at our church, I got to listen to missions speakers all day long speak about the Gospel and how it is transforming lives. From Russia to ethnic groups in the Midwest to rural towns to gypsies to students being trained for tribal missions, I soaked up the encouragement of those who are being sent out in Jesus' name to bring the Gospel to all the nations.

Then, God brought a different group together (with just as much coffee but a few more years than my girls in Honduras) to bring encouragement and laughter and insight. As we sat around tonight and talked about missions and prayer, we all agreed that God doesn't need us to do His work (as so many have said before). The only thing keeping the 10/40 window (an illustration to describe the great number who have not heard the Gospel) open is the Lord's sovereign will that it is so. He desires that, through missions, we might know Him better, love Him better, and enjoy Him more. Through the faithful going and doing, we lose ourselves, shed our sinful skin, and take on the likeness of our Savior.

I praise God for His call to go because it is a call to see Him.

to see His grace for us, while we are sinners.

to see His great love and affection towards us.

to see His patience and faithfulness.

God is so good to call us to spread the good news because it is a call to die to what we hold dear so that we can live for what is most dear.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

upside down at the ankles

When I was little, I was thrown around like a toy amongst the brothers and men in my family. I don't mean that in a bad way (because my mom would say I "asked for it" almost every time and I probably did). But let's just say it wasn't strange to walk into our living room to see me hanging upside down with my brothers' hands at my ankles. Now, I could incite trouble like any good tomboy could, but I wasn't one to give up once I got in the middle of it. So, even in that helpless upside-down-at-the-ankles state, I would be jerking and swinging and doing any kind of acrobatics to get free. And it was always when the boys got tired of the game that it was over - not when I accomplished something with all my thrashing. They would let me go (probably by the surprise release method) and then I'd catch my breath long enough to go at them again, sure that this time I could somehow swing an underdog victory. (Sigh). Right now feels a lot like upside-down-at-the-ankles. I realize I haven't written since those last days in Honduras and I can't quite decide if it's shock or pain or laziness or a dreadful combination of all three. I had all sorts of ideas about what life would look like back here in the States. I still have that tomboy-ish mischief in me that looks at trials and says, "Ha! You can't get me!" and then scampers off knowing full well that trial is a-comin' at full speed to pick me up by my ankles and shake all my independence out (oh, and every little bit of loose change). And that, folks, is exactly what happened.

I stepped off the plane in Omaha after one of the most emotional departures of my life in Tegucigalpa to blaze a trail that only made sense in my mind. It looked like this:

———> Lewis, IA to LA to SAN to LA, to SFO to SAC to LA to Clear Lake, IA to CHI to Holland, MI to PHL to DE to Grantham, PA to NY to Toledo, OH to Griswold, IA

I was applying for jobs in those places, but I was also picking up the pieces of my stateside self - trying to figure out what it would mean to live in this skin - and I ended up back on the good ole family homestead thrashing and resisting the attack I provoked on my pride and independence. I am not one bit regretful of my galavanting, though. I'm kind of a face-to-face girl and I needed the time walking on beaches and sitting on couches and chasing kids around houses to remind myself that God has called me to let love fly just as crazy here.

But, when the dust settled from the adventures and I started getting used to painfully pleasant rejection letters and emails, I started to feel the weight of "missing" the ministries and people and crowded streets and fried corn tortillas. It was sure heavy.

God is so gracious to give me community in this time. I was ready to pack my bags and move almost the minute I got back, but He hasn't let me. No, I think I needed to get some thrashing out, upside down, before I could move on and He was gracious enough to let me do that in the midst of canning salsa and playing nertz and hiking timbers and harvesting soybeans. I am so very thankful.

Last night, when I was babysitting some imaginative munchkins, I scooped up Dari and flipped her upside down and said, "I'm going to shake all your sillies out!" I shook and shook while she giggled until I said, "Well, I think I got 'em all!" to which she promptly responded by scooping all her sillies from the air and then touching my knees, saying, "Now all the sillies are in your knees!"

My knees have never had such a party!! It reminds me of Ecclesiastes 5 and verse 20 more specifically. Solomon is going on and on about what is/isn't important and what we can/cannot hold onto in this life. Then he arrives at this verse that has nestled its way into my favorites,

For he will not much remember the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with joy in his heart.

I want so much to forget my days, for the joy in my heart! How wonderful a thing - to be SO AMAZINGLY FULL of joy that there is no room for anything else.

So, I guess I'm back at this blog thing again. There is too much inspiration in this season to find excuses not to express it! The changing leaves, the baking spices, the conversations, and the endless times I find myself in the upside-down-by-the-ankles state ... they all want written about and I think I'll finally give in.

maybe you'll help me remember how to

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

don't go chasin' waterfalls

"...just stick to the rivers and the lakes that you're used to" So, if you grew up in the 90s you know this song by TLC. It was the kind we would belt out on the bus ride to a volleyball game and sing in the middle of the night at slumber parties. And, apparently, it's the kind of song that pops into my head when I start thinking about the next couple weeks. Honestly, it has nothing to do with leaving or Honduras or ministry... I think that (maybe) sentiment pushes us to grasp at anything nostalgic and apparently that was the first thing I touched.

The point is, I wasn't prepared for Edo (Eduardo) to amble into my office this morning and announce that today is his last day. I think I gave him 1000 hugs and said, "I'm not ready for this" a hundred times. The strange thing is, the tears pop out at the most random times - like driving alone in my car - and sometimes I can't find them in the most appropriate moments, like this morning when my heart was twisting at the idea that I won't be able to see this fine young man grow and change the world.

My offers of facebook friendship and mutual blog-stalking seemed a bit shallow, but it was all I could offer between the awkward amount of hugs. I'm sure there is a book somewhere about "How to leave without losing yourself" but I'd honestly rather just go into this blind. I'd rather play this one spontaneous, with a skip in my step and respect for the sorrow in my heart.

Once I reign in my distracted mind, the C.S. Lewis song by Brooke Fraser is much more appropriate. Maybe it will encourage you this morning.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GHpuTGGRCbY]

let LOVE fly like cRaZy!

all kinds of emotional

I just walked off the treadmill a few minutes ago because I thought my waterworks wouldn't pass for sweat any longer. I was sweating a storm when the song, "Love, Love, Love" by Tristan Prettyman hit my iPod. I happen to have the version where she explains the song is about growing up surfing and barbecuing with her family every day of summer. She has since left that routine to travel as a musician, but this song is a reminder that these people and memories will always be love to her. I started to think of all the ways this place and these people have become "love" to me. I thought of the slurred broadcast voice speeding through a list of vegetables available on the back of the truck driving through my neighborhood at 7 am.

I thought of the cow that almost hit us on the way up the mountain last night.

I thought of the little note a student left for me today, asking me to pray for her test (and our joyful celebration afterwards when she was happy with the results!).

I thought of all the times I've been part of a crowded kitchen and the delicious results.

I thought of countless conversations that played out better than the most riveting film - conversations where I couldn't wait to see what the student would say next or how they would surprise me with insight/joy/wisdom.

I thought of students popping into my office in every spare moment, whether I was busy or available, just to say hello.

I thought of nudging Louis's battered nose out into traffic, confident that we would pull through whatever peril we were entering.

I thought of my house without electricity at the moment and all the opportunities I've had to be still in candlelight.

I thought of the delight at watching people enjoy something I've baked up in my kitchen.

I thought of student meetings, crowded in my little office, where we shared our testimonies and fears and joys.

I thought of the blessings of friendship - the deep, deep kind I never expected to find when I came here "on mission," but the kind that will be part of my story forever.

I thought about the lessons I've learned at the foot of my Savior, when I'm willing and when I'm not, and His infinite patience with me as I try to figure out how to best support His kingdom work in this place.

I thought of all the crazy ways God has paraded His glory in front of my face in these past three years and I thought it was dangerous to try to beat the treadmill at its game.

It's strange that heavy emotions really sap your strength. I can do an hour on the treadmill normally and still be ready for a crazy night of randomness afterwards. But, these days I am dragging myself out of bed every morning and having a rough time even pounding out 30 minutes at night and I can only point to these silly emotions as the culprit. I guess it's even more proof that God interwove every part of us. You can't separate your energy from your emotion anymore than you can separate darkness from night.

And I'll say that's why I am tired. I have a running list of "Things I want to do before June 23..." and it's growing but my time is shrinking. Today, without warning, as the last students were rushing out of the hallways to get to the bus, I let the tears roll. People were asking when it would start hitting me... well, it's now I guess.

Here's Tristan's song:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qNPP-sYv01M]

Here's another song that has been such an encouragement to me lately. Honestly, this is my prayer right now - for me and for my students and for our desperate generation. This cry comes right out of Deuteronomy 6 and it is timeless. I want this to be my story. I want to remember my Lord and Savior in this way. I want His love and mercy and kingdom to be tied around my wrists and written on my doorposts and displayed in my life like I want nothing else. And I want this desperate love to be what holds my students together. I want them to remember who the Lord is and how He is reigning over all things.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1rioza0defc]

no matter what kind of emotional you are

let LOVE fly like cRazY tonight, okay?

Kyrie Eleison

In Greek, the phrase means, "Lord, have mercy." What catches my breath in my throat is how beautiful the phrase sounds. I remember singing it in high school for Honor Choir or All State auditions, I'm not sure which. I am sure I was drawn in by the mystery of its beauty and its tragedy ... but not understanding why.

Today, the mystery wound itself around my heart's cry for my students. As I sat at the mechanic shop (praise the Lord my severely overheated car only needed a simple little tube that cost 2 dozen eggs and some change!) reading Think by John Piper, I thought about how we are called to be both like children (Matthew 18:3), but not children at all (1 Corinthians 14:20).

I can think of many times I've been accused of being excessively childish and an almost equally amount of times I've been accused of being too serious. And, um, the accusations are often true. The pros and cons of this see-saw are something only the Lord can measure out. But, I'm not going to give up that easy.

I love that the God of all the universe suggests we become like children... completely dependent for every need and completely abandoned to all kinds of joy; completely honest about doubts and completely transparent about fear. We need Him just as desperately for joy as we do for our bread and I think He delights equally to give them.

I love that when Zaccheus heard Jesus was coming to town, he lost all sense of shame or fear and scurried right on up that Sycamore tree. And oh how I love Jesus when he gives Zaccheus (see this sermon by George Whitefield) the invitation to come down ... and to please host him (Jesus) at his house for a celebration! Zaccheus abandoned all pride and position just to glimpse the Man with the power to give him a place in eternity.

Can you believe it? God didn't move Zaccheus to walk stoically up an aisle at an altar call and calmly confess by repeating a mechanical prayer. God moved in Zaccheus and the little guy couldn't reach for the branches fast enough. He desperately wanted to see Jesus and nothing else mattered. Only a child would act like that. And I love that Jesus loved it.

On the other/same hand (I refuse to think these things are actually separate), Paul cautions the church in Corinth to not be children "in your thinking." We are to be infants in regard to evil, but mature in our thinking. It is much easier to do the opposite - mature about evil and infants in our thinking. We are not called to be infants about everything... just evil. The act of thinking will bring us into maturity, just like a child who learns to walk or start mumbling phrases. Those lessons require thinking. Sometimes we get so concerned about being "relevant" that we start to be mature about the evil in the world. I can't say I know what it means to be innocent of evil (Romans 16:19) and wise about what is good, but I think it has a lot to do with Philippians 4:8, "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things."

As we actively think on these things, in the pursuit of Scripture and its application in our lives, the evil things of our dark world becomes less appealing, while the wisdom about living in the darkness makes our light shine like a million suns.

It's getting late and I should wrap this up.

Basically, when my heart cries out Kyrie Eleison today, I am saying, "Lord, have mercy on me when I am mature about evil and innocent about good. And, Lord have mercy on my students as they choose what to think on, be wise about, and be innocent of. Oh, Lord please have mercy!"

What better place to learn about this desperate plea than through music... through the beautiful voice of a child. Here's a young English boy singing Kyrie recorded live in Dublin with a full choir and orchestra. Also this article from the Gospel Coalition, "Ordinary Evil and the Factory that Made Corpses" has provoked some thoughts on what it is to be innocent of evil, or completely mixed up in it.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

learning gratitude

"Why do you love your mother?"

It was a simple question that came up last week at Bible study somewhere after, "Why do we suffer?" and before, "Will we recognize each other in heaven?"

It's an old question that tries to probe the origins of love for others. We went around in circles but agreed our love for our mothers is a response. I would add that my love for my mother has grown as I've realized how it comes without condition... often before I call home to spill my guts she'll have already anticipated my outburst.

Skip to tonight. I was at worship at the Micah Project where I heard a different Mothers Day story. Four of the littlest boys recorded a song to show their love for their mothers, though they do not know where their mothers are. The song broke my heart because it talks about trying to remember her face and her voice, but reassuring her that (wherever she is) she is loved.

I am overwhelmed. Not just that I have a mom who loves me without condition, but that I can picture her face when she is joyful, scared, sad, or with a fit of giggles. I know what she will look like when I get off the plane on June 24 and I know how her hug will feel. In many ways, my mom is home to me. So, when I see these boys throwing love out into the heavy night sky, I feel even more blessed to know exactly how my mom will answer the phone the next time I call.

And in all of this, I am learning gratitude. If I am loving my mom well, I am loving the Lord who shared her with me. If I am loving the Lord well, then I am responding first and always in gratitude to His kindness... and this means being a "mom" to those who throw love out to the night sky without knowing if it will return. With these boys and students and anyone God sovereignly places in my path, I want to be available to show the unconditional love of my Father (which will forever be on beautiful display in my mom).

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

true spirituality - Holy Week Reflections

Cover of "True Spirituality"

Pollution has become this city's worst allergy. The smoke and haze hovers over the mountains and seeps down in through our windows and makes my eyes itch. Today a bit of relief came in an afternoon rain. I'm still reveling in the lingering smell of it. Deep breaths are always best in the case of a good afternoon rain, so that's what I'm doing tonight.

I'm revisiting Francis Schaeffer's "True Spirituality" and, apart from my previous pencil marks, I could be reading it for the first time. The honesty is so fresh. I don't mean fresh in a so-hip-and-cool-and-slightly-ambiguous way. I mean fresh like BAM! it hits you in the face. He doesn't mess around because he truly adores the subject of his honest grappling. I wish I could say I don't miss a beat of his rhythm, but I definitely have to read whole paragraphs over sometimes to get the full weight of it.

The funny thing is... the words Schaeffer penned in 1971 are desperately needed today in the conversation of theology and doxology and, well, the art of living. Before you even flip the page of the first chapter, you read,

"Our true guilt, that brazen heaven which stands between us and God, can be removed only upon the basis of the finished work of Christ plus nothing on our part. The Bible's whole emphasis is that there must be no humanistic note added at any point in the accepting of the gospel. It is the infinite value of the finished work of Christ, the second person of the Trinity, upon the cross plus nothing that is the sole basis for the removal of our guilt."

This whole plus nothing idea has always and forever will be a humbling thing for me. I have tried to make Jesus need something from me. I want to bring something before Him and hear, "Oh, yes! That is what the cross was missing! Thank you so much!" But, it's not possible. Strange that hearing those words would mean my God is small and helpless and needy.

I wrote about a lesson in dependence while I lived in Austin... and then several months later when I realized dependence isn't a lesson and God truly desired that I would come to Him empty handed. Salvation is Christ plus nothing. If I present anything else, I present a bold-faced lie.

In my journey of learning to believe Christ as truly sufficient, I discovered a beautiful freedom. When I say freedom, it's hard to describe just how giddy it makes me feel.

Have you ever felt the random rush to dance? Or uncontrollable laughter bubbling up from your gut? Or maybe you have stretched out your arms as far as they could possibly go and lifted your face toward heaven to take in some crazy rays.

I desperately hope you have a picture of the kinds of things freedom brings to mind. When I truly let the reality of Christ plus nothing sink in, the excitement of freedom all but bursts out of me!

Today, with Songs of Lent as a musical backdrop, I studied the words of Isaiah 53. I wrote out every phrase and let it sink in like the rain. This description of Christ tugs at all the foolish places I hide - the places I believe my salvation is plus something. Then I listened to this message from Mbewe and turned my focus to verse 11, "out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied." After enduring the suffering of the cross, even anguishing in His sinless soul, Christ saw and was satisfied in what He accomplished. The glorious work of the cross is truly finished and I am numbered among the many whose iniquities he bore.

It's starting to rain again.

Let LOVE fly like cRaZy, folks, but remember the LOVE of Christ needs no addition of our own making.

my mom misses my blog

I miss it, too. I kept thinking of opening lines over the past few weeks, but they never found their way to the keyboard. I apologize for the absence of electronic words, but my excuse is that I've been living. I'm trudging through a great mix of emotions as I fill my days with sometimes the most random things. Yesterday was the Junior/Senior banquet... which made the end of this year even more final.

Well, my mom has suggested in more than one way that I will regret it if I don't blog during these last months, so I am going to throw out some bullet points to get started. This is a mezcla of things I've been up to lately:

  • I am just eating up every message from the Gospel Coalition Conference that's happening right now in Chicago. They are not only posting the plenary sessions online for free, they also made the live hymn sing available! Go check it out, download it all and then send me a message so we can talk about it! The only (BIG) downside to not being there is the discussion that I'm sure is happening over coffee and around book tables.
  • This quote by John Stott, as I think about the cross,

“Every time we look at the cross Christ seems to say to us, ‘I am here because of you.  It is your sin I am bearing, your curse I am suffering, your debt I am paying, your death I am dying.’  Nothing in history or in the universe cuts us down to size like the cross.  All of us have inflated views of ourselves, especially in self-righteousness, until we have visited a place called Calvary.  It is there, at the foot of the cross, that we shrink to our true size.”

John R. W. Stott

  • I love this new blog I found llevo el invierno where a super creative, crafty lady from Monterrey, Mexico posts some great stuff! Also enjoying this and this.
  • I have found out that working out and strength training doesn't necessarily mean slimmer... I feel like I'm training to be a football player or something!!
  • This year is winding down and I'm all mixed up with how to feel about it. The seniors have 23 days of school left and I'm getting as weepy as they are! I have other students in and out of my office and I try hard to keep my emotions at bay because if I don't there's no controlling them, they'll just go crazy!
  • The Nichols siblings are about to embark on a half-marathon journey for the fall. I'm super pumped to do this with my sister and brothers (praying for James's injuries to be completely gone in time to train). This is something I'm so excited about, amidst all the other confusion and changes.
  • Mission trip momentum... this is the time where I need to be praying the hardest for my students. They are getting attacked on every side by people and things that say they should be "over" the mission trip by now, but in their hearts they know it's a lifestyle they've been called to. I love them so incredibly much and want to pray them into the Lord's presence!
  • Next year. Oh heavens! The Lord has this, too, in His hands.
  • Semana Santa is next week and I have a lot of hangout time planned with students, as well as some goals to spend some reflective time with books and words and writing and (yes) even my blog. I want to hit up the stations of the cross with these Songs for Lent, which you can pick up for free.
  • I have been doing this really cool fast/pray/give thing with Living Water as a practice for Lent and I've got nothing but good reflection about it. Hard at times, but good.
  • Tonight I made a bucket list of sorts for the seniors/students/mission trip/me and it is completely unfinished but even as I was writing it I felt excitement and sadness go back and forth like ping pong in my soul.
Okay, well I guess I'm back in blogging action.
let LOVE fly like cRaZy
once again!