Tuesday, August 19, 2014

When Your Hands Shake

I would be lying if I said last week wasn't hard. There is death and destruction all around us in this great big world and sadly, no one is safe from it. There is war and political unrest that is tearing apart homes, cities, and families.
I don't watch the news for this reason. Unfortunately, that doesn't stop these atrocities from happening. It lessens my awareness but doesn't change the situation.
I can't help thinking I'm not alone in my-not-watching-the-news world, but something happened this week that made me stop and pay attention.

Two words.
Robin Williams.

After hearing the news and thinking on it for a few days, I said to my mom, "I'm really sad and I can't figure out why. I know I didn't know him but his death makes me feel sad and hurt. I don't really get it."
She thought about it for a while and then she said something that I hadn't thought of before: "He made you laugh. When people can bring you to that place, you form a connection to them. It's like they understand what you find funny and it feels like a personal connection. It the universality of comedians, I think. They make us laugh when they make fun of something that happens to everyone, like family dynamics or how we act in a grocery store when people in front of us take too long to decide on an item. But in the end, strangers don't make you laugh, you know? Friends do that."

Before she finished talking, I found myself nodding in agreement. Comedians have an interesting place in our lives. They are wholly outside of our everyday, however we end up feeling very close to them. Also, they are comedians. They are professionally funny. Surely they don't suffer from depression or illness?

Losing Robin Williams reminds me that this isn't the case. Sometimes being funny just another way of dealing with pain and addiction. Losing Robin Williams reminds me that depression and mental illness doesn't see our successes but focuses on our failures. It doesn't see our wealth but shows us where we are poor.

Today at church, I saw an old family friend and his wife. We used to go to the same church years ago and after we moved to my current church, they followed us shortly after. My parents got pretty involved kind of quickly, but this other couple didn't for whatever reason. I don't see them very often and honestly, I'm not even sure they would remember me. But today as we were singing our last hymn, I happened to look over at them. He was standing, holding a shaking hymnal in his hand, struggling to find the page. I watched him, Parkinson's Disease rearing it's ugly head close to home. I cried. I cried for the suffering he was facing. I cried for Robin, understanding only a tiny portion of what it must have been like to get a diagnosis like that.

But after my tears stopped, I looked over again at the couple. Now they were both standing, the troublesome hymnal safely stored in the pew rack. They stood together. Not singing, but standing in solidarity. Sometimes when our hands shake, we just want to know that someone else is there. 

I don't know what life has thrown your way recently. I don't know if everything is coming up sunshine and roses for you. I don't know if this is the 10th day in a run of horrible no-good days for you. But I do know that no matter what is going on, there is someone in your life who is willing to listen to you and offer help. If things are going great for you right now, maybe YOU are that person for someone else. Sometimes conversations about depression and the bad days of life are hard to have but I promise they are important.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas!

Even in all the cleaning & prep for Christmas, stress and anxiety still find their way into my heart. When I find myself stressing, I try to remember the line from Silent Night: all is calm.

Remember that part of the verse? All is calm, all is bright? Sleep in heavenly peace?
Sometimes it is hard to remember. It's even harder to put it into practice when the world around us is so insistent on chaos. 

I wrote a post over at Audacious about finding peace and calm during the Christmas season. It is still sometimes hard to remember, but when I feel myself stressing I remember what the angel said: 
Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord's glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. "Don't be afraid!" he said. "I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior -- yes, the Messiah, the Lord -- has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!"
Do you see it? First of all, you've got terrified shepherds. Terrified. But, as Pastor Tim would say, thank the Lord for the "comma but." They were terrified, but! they were reassured by an angel of the Lord! How great is that? To have an angel come to your workplace and say, "It's ok. I know you are scared. It will be okay. Guess why? Come on, guess why?! I have GREAT news! The best kind of news! The kind of news that won't stress you out but bring you cause for great celebration!! Are you ready?"

When I take time, I mean really take time, to read that passage, I get excited. Really excited. Can you just picture that angel? All giddy with the joy of fulfilled prophecy? 

Sleep in heavenly peace tonight. Rest in the joy of the good news of The Christ, The Messiah, The Savior of the World.

Get those party hats out. 

Joy has come!

It's time to celebrate! 

Monday, December 23, 2013

hello monday: christmas edition

Two days until Christmas…and I have no idea if I'm ready for it all! 

I'm still putting the finishing touches on presents…which also involves buying/making presents. Oops. 

I am starting to feel the pressure of the holidays. And when I say "starting," I mean it's starting to make me feel anxious and like I want to stay home forever. I've been working the last few weekends at Old Navy and we are hopping from open to close. It has nothing to do with my own shopping and schedule, but being in there for a few hours stresses me out like nothing else. 

I've been trying to keep the stress that can accompany the holiday really low. For me, it looks like not going crazy decorating the apartment, keeping gifts simple but thoughtful, not over-scheduling time off, making good time for good friends and trying to keep that shalom in abundance. 

I'm in cleaning mode today. Why? 

Why, hello monday!
  • My baby sister & her husband are coming to town! They will be visiting for the whole week and I am beyond excited to see them! 
  • FAMILY TIME. This will be the first time since September that all the girls (and the husbands) (AND my niece!) get to spend time together. In the same state. In the same house. I can't even contain the excitement! 
  • I have off for 13 days! Time to catch up on all the cleaning I didn't do over finals and study break…
  • Christmas! Parties! Company! No solid plans yet, but cleaning now means less stress later…
  • My best buddy in the whole world whom I haven't seen in FIVE WHOLE YEARS is coming to visit next week! (I'm just a tiny bit excited, can you tell?!?)
Individually, these things are pretty great. But together? In the same week? Well, that is my Christmas miracle! 

What are you looking forward to this week?? 

Monday, December 2, 2013

Still Thankful

It's not November any more (!) but I can still be thankful about stuff, right? 


Because today I am thankful. So thankful. 

Thankful for friends who hold your hand, give hugs and sit next to you because you are hurting. 

Friends who accept the tear stained face of a girl with very little sleep and very high emotions with z.e.r.o. judgment. 

Friends who look you in the eye and say, "Don't leave. I have to go take care of something, really quickly, but just don't leave, okay?" because they care about you. 

Thankful for people who see me. 

Thankful for my little community.

These next two weeks are going to be insane, just like the last two weeks of semester have always been. Late hours plus stressed out students equals crazy. But being a helping possibly calming voice in that sea of crazy for them is one of my favorite things about my job. Seriously. 

I heard somewhere (okay fine. It was a Gilmore Girl episode.) that sometimes it is helpful to view problems in life as challenges instead of a problem or setback. So here are some "challenges" I have to look forward to this week:

  • working a crazy finals schedule
  • finish organizing study break (food, drinks, games, etc.)
  • getting my car to the garage to (hopefully) fix what I think is a leaky radiator hose
  • laundry (or seriously, I'll be wearing all my fancy dresses to work for two weeks. And when the dresses run out, it's gonna be jeans and hoodies…)
Where's the fun in life if things aren't a little difficult, right? And if you see me sitting in a corner somewhere, rocking quietly or crying, just leave a huge cup of coffee with me and back away slowly. Trust me. It will end better for both of us.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Reflections on C. S. Lewis

On my drive home last night, I thought a lot about this man:

This still remains one of my favorite pictures of him.

If you've been on this blog for any length of time, you are quite aware that C. S. Lewis is one of my favorite authors. Last night, I asked myself why this was the case. 
I was made aware of Lewis long before I can even remember, truth be told. My parents used to read to us before bed every night. Or at least, a few times a week. Among other books, The Chronicles of Narnia were read frequently. When my father read, he occasionally gave British accents to some of the characters. Badly, but still. It was the thought that counted. I also grew up with that horribly low-budget fantastic BBC rendering of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. I watched those VHS tapes to death, though, low budget or not. To this day, I'm sure I know the whole thing by heart. 

In his autobiography, Surprised by Joy, Lewis describes what it was like growing up in his New House. The house was noisy but full of empty rooms. And also, he seems to add with joy, books. 
I am a product… of endless books. My father bought all the books he read and never got rid of any of them. There were books in the study, books in the drawing room, books in the cloakroom, books (two deep) in the great bookcase on the landing, books in a bedroom, books piled as high as my shoulder…,books of all kinds…nothing was forbidden me. 
I fell in love with this attitude toward books.  I think I can also blame my obsession with books on Lewis. Though the number of my books do not compare to his or his parents, my house is also rather full of books. This is probably one of the few things Jack and I actually have in common. 
We grew up differently; his mother died when he was young, he had a difficult relationship with his father, he was sent away to schools and communicated with his family and friends through letters. I, on the other hand, am blessed to have both my parents, live semi-close to most of my immediate family, and have the technology to be able to pick up the phone and talk with friends who live hours and states away. 
To highlight even more differences, Jack was a devout atheist for at least 30 years of his life. I grew up in a home where Christ was loved, believed in and demonstrated in every day life, and I had decided to follow the same path for myself. But do you know what his journey to Christianity and Christ tells me? It is ok to have doubts, it is okay to question. But when the questions stop, make sure you listen. You will be asked to make a choice. (Though I would imagine Jack would say you have no choice when the truth is so plain. When it came down to it, he called himself "the most reluctant convert in all England.")

In all of these differences, though, I find a kinship with this man. Maybe it is in the way he so simply talks about faith and belief. His ability to read the Bible and draw out a truth from it that is necessary in every day life always makes me stop and listen. While he calls out sin he also reminds us of the very personal relationship God wants to have with us. I think I never feel so loved by Christ as when I watch Aslan sacrifice himself for Edmund or read Lewis when he says things like "When Christ died, He died for you individually just as much as if you'd been the only man in the world." 

I suppose one of the things I really love about Lewis is that he taught me that it is okay to read fairy tales as an adult. No, that it is important to read fairy tales even as an adult. I was so eager to grow up as a child that I know I skipped many children's books in exchange for Gone with the Wind. I don't regret those choices. In fact, I am sure that because of them I am able to appreciate fairy tales and children's stories more as an adult. Instead of seeing the jerk of a selfish troublemaker in Edmund, I see myself. I see the bad choices, but I also see the possibility of redemption. Instead of just seeing a person who has lost faith in the stories of old in Trumpkin, I see myself. I see how easy it is to lose faith when you feel abandoned, but also how faith can be restored when you allow yourself to be taught and led by those with more faith than you currently posses. Instead of seeing a bossy, friendless, pain in the neck whiner in Eustace, I see myself. Stay with me here! While yes, he is all of those things, and how!, he doesn't stay that way after his encounter with The Lion. I, too, am capable and find myself trying to live life in my own strength. It is only when I cry out that I cannot do it on my own and ask for help can the scales of pride and selfishness come off.

I love that even after years of careful study and reading for pleasure, I still find joy in opening a book by or about C. S. Lewis. I love the way his speech changes from academic to common and back again, all without losing the reader or the point. 
I have much more to say about this great man and I'm sure that I shall do so in the future, but for tonight, this is where I will leave it. 
I will always be thankful to God for creating such a man, to Jack for sharing his gifts and talents with the world and for those in my life with whom I can talk to about everything Lewis. 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Hello Fall

Can you believe this weather? 

All fall and breezy and cool and leaf-crunching, salted caramel latte drinking, boot & scarf wearing weather? 

I adore it. 

A couple of weeks ago, if you remember (and if you live in my neighborhood…) we were having weather with an identity crisis. It was October but totally feeling like spring. I was all ready for the long sleeves, fuzzy boots and all of that, but the Sun was shinning and well…I was feeling a little over dressed. But I didn't care because I was able to spend the morning with my precious niece. It is hard for me to even believe that this girl is a whole year old already. She is a delight and I love spending time with her. She isn't talking a lot but, oh boy, she certainly knows how to tell you exactly what she wants!
We played outside that day, since it was so beautiful. We were going to go for a walk, but Miss Thang was a little sleepy and preferred that I carry her. I made no complaints. I would stop walking and ask her where she wanted to go next. She would point and away we would go. There are a few hills at my parents house (where we were hanging out that day) and how do you go down a hill with a one year old in your arms? By running, of course!
The wind caught her baby wispy hair, pushing it back off her face. The sun caught the gold in her hair and highlighted her laughing eyes. I was struck in the moment, as I am quite often when I am blessed to spend time with her, how perfectly happy she looked. She gives herself to new experiences fully. And I love that about her. She would burst out laughing when I would stop, almost as if the laugh was building up the whole time we were running and she didn't want to waste it to the wind or miss a moment of fun. 

We wandered over to the raspberry bush, where she insistently signed "more" and pointed to the bush. My girl likes her raspberries! There were only a few and I had to distract her when the ripe berries really were "all gone." We sat on the slightly damp ground and pulled up grass and ripped up a brown crunchy leaf. We just sat. No talking. We just passed the leaf back and forth and ripped it to pieces. And in that moment, as I watched the sun on her face and her little fingers work so carefully, I was thankful. 

Thankful for cold weather. 
Thankful for sun. 
Thankful for the precious child sitting in front of me. 
Thankful for being able to spend time with her & get to know her tiny self better.
And it was hard going to work that day. It was hard leaving her and those moments of peace and quiet. It seemed so wrong that I would have to go to work after spending such a beautiful morning with people I love. But even now, I carry that image in my head of Baby Girl's face: the wind blowing her hair, the sun, the joy, the laughter. And no matter how cold it gets or how many scarves I wear or lattes I drink, nothing warms my heart like that girl. 

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Trust & Obey...but only if I have to...

Twice a year for twelve years, I sang the first and last verse of Trust and Obey. It was my small Christian school's theme song and it signaled the beginning and end of every school year. To this day, I can still sing those two verses with my eyes closed, the words seared into my memory. I am using the Merriam-Webster definition of the word seared here: to burn, scorch, mark, or injure with or as if with sudden application of intense heat.
In case you are still confused, I do not like this song. These aren't glowing terms I am using to describe the song or the memory of singing it with my classmates. While the song and the memory of it represents many years of my life,(and some of those years admittedly were good years) as a whole they aren't joyous years; they are years and years of frustration and a little bitterness.

Even now, seven years after graduating, singing this song in church produces a negative attitude in my soul. (Which says more about my heart than the song, I know.)
Well, I mean, it did. Until the other week. When we sang, not just the first and last verse, but the verses in between. 
See, the first verse talks about joyously following Jesus and how he will only walk with us when we, say it with me, trust and obey:
When we walk with the Lord
in the light of his word,
what a glory he sheds on our way!
While we do his good will, 
he abides with us still,
and with all who will trust and obey.
The fourth verse talks about the sweet fellowship we will have with Jesus when we are able to bodily be in the presence of God and the willing obedience we display, without fear:
Then in fellowship sweet
we will sit at his feet,
or we'll walk by his side in the way;
what he says we will do,
where he says we will go,
never fear, only trust and obey.
For me in that school, this song felt like a holy battering ram, forcing me to do what the school wanted, in Jesus' name. I was to obey them without question, because Jesus said you were suppose to obey those he placed in authority over you. And if I did all that they asked, followed their many rules without fear or questions, Jesus would love me and let me walk with him! 
Two weeks ago we sang this song at church. At first, I wanted to dig my heels in, stand there, hymn book closed and arms crossed. Fool me once, shame on me. But, for whatever reason, I opened the book and sang along, thinking I knew the whole song by heart. I was surprised when I had to look at verses two and three, because they did not fit with the image of the song I carried with me for many years. 
Not a burden we bear,
not a sorrow we share,
but our toil he doth richly repay;
not a grief or a loss,
not a frown or a cross,
but is blest if we trust and obey.

But we never can prove
the delights of his love
until all on the altar we lay
for the favor he shows,
for the joy he bestows
are for them who will trust and obey.

 I don't know about you, but these two verses change the tone of this song for me. It does not hold to the happy clappy spirit of the first and last verse. There are trials and toils, ah but he is there! (I imagine to 'richly repay' something, you need to know what the issue is.) And the trusting and obeying, it gets rewarded. Even if it doesn't get rewarded right away. We are blessed when we trust and obey through the hard times. (Hard times? If you just sing the first and last verse there are no hard times!) That verse three? What a doozey! It is talking about full submission in every area of our life. To fully know and understand God and what He is about, total submission to Him is required. Do you see the result of submission? Favor and joy. 
And before anyone says it, I realize this isn't Scripture. It isn't something to live and die for. But music...music has that ability to speak to our souls when regular words fall short.

I'm not saying that I now, all of a sudden, love this song. I won't choose it at the next hymn sing. My apologies to the worship leaders at my church.But reading and singing these two verses, I don't know. It changed something in my heart. Trusting and obeying isn't something that will instantly make things go well for me or get me good grades.It won't make my life eternally blissful, but it will contribute to the bliss of my eternal life. And through the hard times, understanding who God is and relying on him is what will make all the difference at the end of the day.