This is a re-post from November 19, 2007 when I was living and working in Austin, Texas with Americorps, coordinating service for the college students at St. Edward's University. It is so funny how I recently saw a bright light bulb illuminate about my strong desire for a partner in ministry, male leadership, and family. I thought I was seeing a new understanding and desire emerge. Then, I randomly read this old post and it seems that this desire is not so new at all! Though my location has changed and my contentedness to continue adventuring alone until God guides otherwise, I still feel very much the same.
There is a very sad song by William Fitzsimmons called, "Afterall." It's a song that pleads for love to remain, after all. With the memories of wedding vows in repetition, the song is so painful because by the end he is pleading without hope of securing the love, afterall.
so I thought I wanted to control every piece,
Here are two poems I wrote during the course of our 8 hour ACSI conference today, after a half-day of school.
Thanks, Christina for writing yesterday about business vs. personal. I think the blurred line only gets more blurry when you are working in a Christian context. Because your business is also mission, and also community, and also the Body of Christ, and also family. All those things together make for a pretty crazy mix of business/personal. I have to echo the thoughts of our mom on this one... personal goes with you wherever you are. You bring 'personal' to every meeting, every encounter with a student, every board decision, and every pink slip. You bring personal because that is how we are made: personal, relational, human. I think God intended it this way. But, it sure is difficult.
Entirely unrelated (and mostly because I already have it written and it's an easy copy/paste job), I wanted to share something from awhile back. I spoke to two different sets of high school students a couple weeks ago on Nehemiah 8 (per my mother's brilliant suggestion) in an attempt to discuss joy and suffering. I did some writing before/after and here some excerpts:
When I stand up against Truth ...
(sin secret and hidden) spouting
nonsense words and misplaced
SHAME fills me and
too weak to stand
destroyed and scattered like
chaff, swept up by the hungry wind
and I fall faster
fear, though I know its true place
surrounds the pieces
of what was once complete
the feeling that i have failed
that the world has failed
is only overcome by the
it is overcome by the
I guess I'm on a bit of a poetry kick these days and I don't mind at all. I hope you don't either. I finished reading "The Singer" by Calvin Miller at the same time that the song, "Come and Sing" by Brooks Ritter (see yesterday) was repeating on my ipod. To put it shortly: after (what could have been merely) a frustrating day, I realized something... If all I accomplished today was getting myself to that beautiful throne to join in the angels' song, then that would be just fine. If I made it there and just really belted out my heart full of gratitude, then this day was alive. This song just kind of bubbled out of that joy.
I just want to post a few reflections I had on the Holy Spirit while reading through Forgotten God and studying Scripture. I am overwhelmed at this idea that God is inside of me. The power of the most High, the beauty and perfection and love and GOD. Inside of me, really?
I can't make sense of it. Inside me is so close. I can't escape this body and that's how close He is. The Holy Spirit is in me. whoa.
The Living Lord inside of me
littering the corners and walls and storage bins of my heart.
for I did not realize how close you were.
YOU LIVE HERE
this washed up piece of garbage,
cast-off and misused by its owner
this junk clumsily folded into
neglected and scorned by the one entrusted
this hollowed-out shadow, dark with anger,
fierce with bitter rage and pain
this monster so neatly covered,
the depraved mind and within
the lusting heart
the abused and burdened
the twisted and desperate
the confused and grieved
This is a tweaked version of a little article to appear in the next Journey, the HS newsletter I write for the guidance office.
When I was in high school, a regular day would find me dreaming about a future version of myself... a very good looking version.
I wasn’t messy or disorganized. I was never late to work and always dressed exactly right. I was never over-stressed or panicked about what the next days and weeks might bring. I was responsible (but care-free), busy (but not overworked), tidy (but not obnoxiously so), and punctual (but flexible).
Basically, I created a dreamy, perfect version of myself and decided that would be my future.
I was comfortable thinking I would “grow” into this person and eventually have all the good habits and character traits I was missing.
Then, I went to college. I got a job. Then, I got another job. Now, I am here.
I am still waiting for the perfect version of myself to appear and introduce all the habits I thought would just grow into my life. Six years later.
What went wrong?
Let me share a little secret the great, big, nasty world has been keeping from me: I will never get “there.”
No matter how many people tell me it gets easier and no matter how many times I convince myself this crazy phase of life will pass, it won’t. There are some things about who I am that will never change. I can’t change my personality or the way I was wired to try a thousand things at one time.
There are other things (like being punctual and responsible) that I can change with a little bit of good, old-fashioned discipline. Apparently, what I should have been thinking about (during my daydreams in Mrs. Tietz’s classes) was making habits out of that future picture of myself.
I am setting out to change the habits I form with my everyday decisions. I'll try to stop daydreaming about a future, perfect version of myself and instead try to make habits today worth keeping.
Awhile back (maybe a couple years) I started writing something just for fun. It was called, "Adventures of the Life I Wish I Led." It was meant to be a novel in the voice of a memoir... about all the adventures I take in my head. Maybe I was just overwhelmed at the idea of capturing those mind adventures in words or maybe I was intimidated at the really good idea I thought it was and so got a bit discouraged in the outworking of it all. Well, I have a new idea.
It's called: true stories. We'll see how it goes. This idea started out as a Christmas present to my parents, well, my mom really. She loves (or at least I tell myself she does) to read my writing and so I thought I could write some real-life tales in the form of children's short stories. I only got as far as three stories, with promises of more. Here is the first.
Winter had settled in to the tired country home, steeped on all corners with fluffy white. Five child-size flurries ran circles inside while their parents struggled to keep up with the winter games. The frigid cold snuck in under doorways and through weak windows to whisper on the necks of the great family in the season of Christmas.
The great family watched one day as the snow and ice piled high outside the windows. The child-size flurries had spent the day building igloos and angels and ramps for sleds, but were finally content to sit around the great family’s wooden table and sip fresh hot cocoa from the stirred pot on the stove. Long before dinner was a thought in Mother’s mind, darkness fell like a blanket on the country home in the valley.
Five pairs of rosy cheeks and tired eyes began to plead for promises of "dinner soon." But, before Mom could respond, winter’s darkness burst through the front door and consumed the country home. With masterful grace, Mother swooped all the child-size flurries under her tender Mother wings while lighting candles to push the cold darkness back out to winter.
The great family - Mother and Father and all the child-size flurries - excitedly spread the living room with candles and cards and popcorn on top of a bedsheet. And the dark night filled with the sounds of laughter and love until the last flurry was packed into the pullout couch and tucked in tightly to ward of winter’s chill.
I will never, ever, ever forget my mom's red, bursting face as she read the line, "with masterful grace..." She could not keep the giggles behind a straight, storyteller's face (of which she had to this point, done a very fine job). It probably took a good minute for her to recover and sputter something about, "masterful grace? more like, desperate panic!"
minutes brimming empty
where wandering thoughts
arrest a scattered spirit
and deposit a soul ill at ease
the overflow speaks, sputters
out from crumpled hearts
to fall misshapen on top
the ground, mud-covered
a lone wilted, weary traveler
dumps heavy burdens of cold stone
alongside hearts mistaken
for quiet love and mercy tender
an inclined ear to pity's plea
awake and tend the battle
a wise one must in wartime make
a firm stand for what most matters
Here is a poem I wrote today:
sitting here with a cup of tea
atop of a tired afternoon
distraught with all the crazy
that will pass before the moon
today was, of course, supposed to be
set apart and beauty-filled
but i think the way i spent it
more hell than heaven thrilled
i'm glad i can be honest
and share what's on my heart
i'm glad you can know sometimes
my mornings have rough starts
even though I may surprise you
with my messes and mistakes,
i hope you will be patient, still
and with questions never hesitate
i think i am starting to see
that blooming girl inside
i think i might have glimpsed
all those things you try to hide
i'm okay with taking it slow
and with learning bit by bit,
but I don't just throw my love around
so can you please take care of it?
And here is a video ...
I love it. We're doing 24/7 prayer this week and THIS is what it's all about - using Scripture to bring God the glory for who He is!
to dine fine and delight
to escape a workdays wrestle
under a clear, starlit night
we are supposed to want to get
fast and furiously away
from the stresses and the messes
of dull, dreary everydays
we are supposed to fight and finagle
every second of the five-day week
then rush away to Saturday, where
of things work-related, we do not speak
we are supposed to just “get through it,”
and endure our vocation
in hopes that one day we just might
end up with one long vacation
we are supposed to savor moments free
away from desk and planner
to find diversions completely apart
from lists on the task manager
we are supposed to fit in this box
where everyone relates-
we complain and groan and sit and moan
about our jobs that we hate
what if we supposed instead
that work could be enjoyed-
that through our daily toils await
unspeakable gifts from being employed
suppose we each were fashioned
for work and not a long vacation
how then would we feel at the close
of one five-day-long summation?
suppose we are wasting our energy
with a fight quite misdirected
running from all the daily joys
Hair wadded on the top of my head means business. It means there is no messing around with swoopy stragglers, determined to blur my vision. It means my just-clean, still wet hair is tightly bound with a wonderful elastic band higher than most cheerleaders dare to perk their tresses.
And this is me tonight, after a most random day. You've heard the cliché "writer's block," where the words stop forming at the tip of your tongue and the typewriter has been silent too long to be a hesitation or a dramatic pause or an intentional 'brain break.'
I'm not talking about writing (unfortunately, I have no reason to make a legitimate "writer's block" plea). I'm talking about work.
For the past week I've been waiting.
waiting for a telephone call about school closures
waiting for a demonstration to finish
waiting for stoplights that only blink yellow
waiting for the curfew to be lifted
waiting for internet to load news about my city
waiting in lines at the crammed grocery store
waiting for things to bake
The waiting was not peaceful. Rather, I should say finding peace amidst the wait has been a fight. I tried on lots of different responses to see if they would fit the (very) many moments:
Some moments I was antsy (truly fidgeting) and anxious.
Other moments I could appear resigned and even indifferent - kind of a, "whatever will be, will be" attitude.
Sometimes I would stretch my little creative fingers and try to make paintbrushes express the palette pushing at my brain.
A good amount of moments I've spent reading - classics and philosophy and studies.
Moments slipped away in regret for moments wasted.
Moments were thrown at wishes for moments to come.
So many moments and all that flustered, not-peaceful waiting were wound very tightly around a hope that someday we would return to school and find a routine hidden underneath the newness of a third "first day of school."
That day was today. The routine? Still looking.
I went from chapel to office to office to chapel to my desk... and quickly left to find others to meet with and de-brief with and compare notes with.
My mind is such a stubborn creature. I couldn't make it bend to the appropriate response to the moments of this day, which was of course, "Be productive!"
No matter how many times I tried to shove my thoughts into an unseemly straight pattern, I found myself sitting at my desk (the smallest amount of moments) busting the seems of the pattern because nothing was fitting. My desk is a brick wall.
All this was satisfactorily frustrating (I would be concerned if this behavior wasn't curious) and I came home tired (which I thought was completely unmerited). I won't bore you with the play-by-play, but I want to share a few moments where God seemed to open the sky and say "here is the beauty."
I was able to chat with my mom (trust me, I never though 'chat with my mom' would ever sound normal) tonight and she reminded me, in her wonderful motherly way,
"BUT God is still on His throne and He is God all by Himself. Give some thought to throwing out your ideas and plans and joining Him in where He is working right now."
And I say, "Okay, mom. I will try that."
about your love at first
all the whiskers, the wrestling -
the working, raw hands were the worst
those dreadful early mornings
when my 'turn' came around
I heard your voice in the stair
and then slowly tumbled down
I climbed upon your lap
no matter what my age
and we sat there together
and together there we prayed
then out to the milking barn,
too tired to complain,
I'd sit on a bucket and you'd ask,
"who's your best friend these days?"
I was a normal, growing girl
all moody and self-involved
and so I want to say I'm sorry
for not seeing your resolve
your persistence to know me
and your love I shrugged off
your interest and encouragement
when others called it a lost cause
thanks for giving pointers
on free throw shots and running form
thank you for attending
every time I would perform
I am sure that I passed over
and looked the other way
when you chose to sacrifice
so my joy could be displayed
I remember those nike shoes
you gave me once for Christmas
I don't know how you got them, but
the miami dolphins colors - delicious
every season with it came
a new thing for us to conquer
unruly bulls, flaming buildings, and
for punishments or curfews or tempers
is swept away with one small truth
that your love was at the center
in the several years since
I have lived outside your "roof"
I grow ever more thankful
for your tough love and your reproof
not all dads are like you
though many are very fine
I believe that there are very few
who can imitate Christ's love, divine
we are growing now, both me and you
we are struggling steady onward
I just want to say thank you again
for pressing farther in and upward
I never called you papa
though I always wished I could
but I'm alright to call you dad
because our love is understood
i am reading this new book. it's flashy and trendy and has exactly the right amount of author honesty stamped on its clean white pages. the beautiful stories of someone else's life has got me hooked like a helpless fish and grasping to make her struggles and dreams somehow part of my own.
on the pages of a book even the tragedy of loss seems strangely romantic. yesterday i picked it up again and flipped through several chapters. i can't help but see her life as dreamy and extravagant, though the typeface admits her daily struggles with life's everyday-ness.
i don't fit there. i'm almost positive there will never be a time when my 'everyday' includes spontaneous trips to europe or annual vacations to private islands or elegant dinner parties or frequent flyer miles to visit old friends. i mean, i guess i can't be totally sure.
but, i'm okay with that. why do i feel like, as i'm reading, that this has to be my story too? that what this author pens as her dreams and tales and desires... somehow has to reflect the bud wrestling to burst forth from the little tree inside of me?
it doesn't, right?
my 'everyday' discoveries of joy and my less elegant, far simpler dreams of what my life will become ... those are legit too, right?
i believe yes. i believe that if five years from now i'm still making art on canvas that no one understands (we'll just call it abstract ;) and still wishing for solitary places to write from my imagined deep, philosophical gut with the hopes of one day writing something that is significant and still acting 17 though I will be pushing 30 and still floundering about without a "normal" job and financial plan and still wishing that I could be part of something outrageously bigger than myself (though not completely sure what that might be) and still just doing the day-in-day-out randomness that seems to be the puzzle pieces of my life...
if i'm still that person, i guess that's okay.
and i guess, diary, what i want to say is that i'm learning that loving people is hearing them ask this same question and then hearing different answers. even the author, i'm sure, as she was writing, was daily proving her legitimacy - of dreams and joys and struggles and pains.
loving people, maybe, is knowing that what i've got to say may not resonate with you. and what you're telling me may not make any sort of sense at all. but hearing each word - a little gift bundled in a (sometimes) messy package - open up to reveal a teeny bit more about who we are.
i think when i was in high school i had this quote on my wall: "to understand any living thing you must creep inside and feel the beating of its heart." according to my google search, W. Macneille Dixon said some version of this so he gets the credit.
the wonderfully crazy thing about creeping inside anyone and feeling the heartbeat, is that this kind of deepest love always, always, always reveals who made us.
now that is significant.
I wrote this poem for my newsletter that came out and thought you might appreciate reading it. It's been awhile since I posted poetry, but this is something that I've been thinking about as I read the news and sit in conversation with my contemporaries. I suppose you see how I feel about the mess I found. Don't be mistaken, I'll include myself in these tendencies as well.
we set out to reach “the lost”
though even that word itself
is starting to sound odd
what is lost anyway?
we are not quite sure
but we are certain we can
lead others to be secure
with less than compassion
and little thought of the best
we ‘make do’ with half-hearted
and we settle for less
a model contrived
of our own skilled volition
jaws determinedly set
to accomplish this mission
little notice we give
to saints of the past
who have weathered the storms
we are sure not to last
of such relevant struggles
old hearts know not one thing
each day is brand new
with new messages to bring
we will persevere, though
in our own way
don’t you dare say different
or we’ll lead you, too, astray
step aside now, concern,
don’t mottle our path
wisdom comes too slow
time to wait has now passed
tradition, stay clear,
we need not your sturdy presence
you will only hinder
our mission and strong cadence
listen here, Lord,
please don’t show your face
we’re content to chase our passions
and Your presence might be a disgrace
LOVE IS A MOVEMENT
When was the last time you were moved? I’m not talking physical movement. When did you last feel drawn into action out of love?
You may have just read the questions above and replied, “Never.” But, dream with me for a moment that it is possible to be moved to act out of love.
Some of us just returned from the Bagope retreat and we’re fired up about the lights we have shining within us. We had a weekend jam-packed with laughter, friendship, and (of course) emotions.
We were confronted in different ways with the things God is asking us to give to Him, to release, or to confess. We lit our “candles” with the light of Christ and vowed to be changed forever.
But, as we return and the emotions fade, those commitments we made in earnest now seem close to impossible in this darkness. At the campfire, one student shared her frustrations with wasting time - wasting the present.
There will never be a time where doing what is right is easy or comfortable. Even so, God commands our love to be one that is expressed through our actions. What is your love moving you to do? Forgive a friend? Speak to your father? Start giving your time to a cause outside yourself? As a child of God, our faith is expressed through love. God gives us everything we need to go and do (and He commands it in His word - James 1:27). So what is your love for God moving you to DO?
When did you last care for something or somebody without caring if they returned the favor? This kind of love is contagious, leaving in its wake eternal change. Please, don’t take my word for it. Search God’s heart to find how He is calling your love to be movement.
The sun is shining bright on the mountain, the summer clothes are back in major style... and school is far from thrilling.
As a student in elementary school, I remember the familiar phrase that would freckle my teachers’ conversation right around spring time, “cabin fever.”
No, I did not go to school in a log cabin, although I don’t think that would be a terrible thing. My teachers were referring to the incurable restlessness that overtook the classroom right around March.
As we all struggled to stay in straight lines for lunch, Miss Ludwig would say, “I think you’ve all got a case of cabin fever!”
A stranger might sense the same type of fervor if he/she should happen to visit the halls of Pinares. We can almost taste summer’s freedom, illuminating the end of this four quarter tunnel called school.
Now that I’m on the other side of the education process, I’m wondering if the summer was worth all the fidgeting. The apostle Paul spoke of forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead. He didn’t say anything about forgetting about the present. Don’t let the glazed-over look fool you - we are not created to do anything halfway. Just think if God had used that mentality when He went about forming creation!
Every single task worth doing is worth doing well, as my mother used to say. This very day (not tomorrow or the next) we are given is a gift. What good is it to waste the day (or the school year) thinking only about when it will end?
Somehow, there’s a way we can shake this cabin fever and finish well. I am sure of this, because I know we were created to do things excellently. There is always a way.
I wanted my mom to see it first, but this is my little way of saying thanks. I know, some of you think it is corny (namely, my siblings!!). But, mom and I have a special corny language and we understand each other there. Some people send balloons or flowers or cards or thoughtful gifts. I guess I like to send rhymes.
Love you, mom!
when darkness comes
and the lights are dim;
when comfort fades
and your hope seems grim
when you’ve searched your heart
and found only fear;
when you’ve searched your soul
and can’t seem to hear
some still small voice
keeps saying “slow down;
seek first, my child,
before your heart tumbles ‘round”
when you get weak
and decisions overwhelm;
when you pretend to be okay
but nothing seems to help
when every problem tires
and your spirit is put to the test;
when impatience sets in
and you are weary with regrets
some still small voice
keeps saying “come near;
seek first, my child,
you know I am here.”