Best of All

“And Max the king of all wild things was lonely and wanted to be where someone loved him best of all.” -Maurice Sendak

Sometimes I remember this part of the story, Where the Wild Things Are, and it makes me kind of sad. I can go in-depth about why I hate it for Max and we can analyze the book from front to back and probably arrive at Max’s need for a child therapist and the problems his mom will inevitably face during his teenage years from the mixed signals she gives by sending him off without dinner then eventually leaving him some without explanation or discussion, but let’s not. Let’s talk about how it makes me hate it for us.

I really feel like this is such a profound insightful sentence, a deep well of insight. This is what we all want— to be where someone loves us best of all. This is the first time I’ve ever talked about this with anyone (and the irony of me typing this to an unknown and un-guaranteed audience is not lost on me) so, I don’t know if we all go through a period of feeling like we lack that, or if it’s just me, but I know that it never leaves you.

I understand that everyone’s family has some dysfunction in it; I’m well aware that normalcy and dysfunction are completely subjective entities, and I’m going to assume that I can speak freely without harping on that. My family growing up was very disjointed. Drawing a picture might help you, but instead I’m going to type it all out and confuse you, Wuthering Heights style (I totally drew a family tree before I could make it through the first chapter of that book). Growing up I had a mom, step-dad, dad, and step-mom and each of them excepting my mom had a child from a previous marriage. (My sister came along after my mom and step-dad got together) This is why I awkwardly giggle when people ask about my standing in birth order; mostly I was oldest, but sometimes I have been the youngest, and for the longest I was the middle.

The second thing we’re just going to have to all agree that we know and then move past is that a child’s perception is just that, the perception of a child. (No one bothers to point that out when the opinions belong to Scout Jean Louise Finch, but I guess to be fair, things told from my elementary perspective have yet to win me a Pulitzer Prize) There was a time when it seemed logical for me to match everyone up. Each child got a grown-up, and that grown-up was their defender, their supporter, theirs— they loved them best of all. It wasn’t a totally CRAZY thing to do, but seeing as it left me odd-kid-out, it wasn’t the most healthy or accurate thing to do either. What’s done is done; now we’re just stating facts. I remember feeling like Max. I felt like I was Queen of all wild things. I was the one who saw all the sides. I understood all the opinions. I ruled over communications. But I was lonely. And all I wanted was to be where someone loved me best of all. Not second of all, not equal of all, not most of all every now and then. BEST OF ALL.

It wasn’t healthy. It wasn’t rational. But it was real. And it doesn’t go away. That want, it still plagues me. And as uncomfortable as I am making generalizations, I don’t think it’s just me. I think you’ve felt it too. I think quite regularly, daily, hourly even, people are using all their resources to prove me right.

Sometimes I catch myself feeling like Max. Not lonely, because now I’m older and a little wiser and can maintain perspective enough to see what that really is, to then see past “loneliness”. But if I’m not careful, I’ll find myself mentally pairing people off with who they love best of all. I’ll catch myself lying, telling my heart that it’s not enough for people to simply love you, you need them to love you best of all. The trick is living there. I’m not fully convinced that it’s a bad thing to want; I am fully convinced it’s a bad thing to only want.

Life is full of dichotomies. Things that seem to contradict, but actually sustain each other. These paradoxes that keep things moving, keep us growing and stretching. Wanting to be loved most of all is both the most heartbreaking and most optimistic desire I can ever imagine having. I never want to be consumed by it, but I hope that I can be strong enough to  contend with the pain in lack in order to perceive the blessing in abundance. I hope that I can gracefully sustain a season of living in that tension.

Advertisements

Save Room

We never ate dessert as part of our dinner growing up. We got dessert. We ate sweet things. But never did we finish our dinner so that we could get dessert. So when I got older and started eating out on my own or visiting with friends who did have that tradition, I started hearing a new phrase— “don’t forget to save room for dessert!”

I like that. Take initiative. Make plans. Demonstrate discipline. Go big. Get the pie. But what inevitably happens when the server comes back to the table to ask if you’ve actually saved room for dessert? You say, no, maybe next time. Right? (90% of the time, yes, right.)

I don’t like that. I eat my dessert first. If I want dessert, why would I take the chance of it not being there when I’m ready, or me not having room because I used up all my dessert space with other filling things that I didn’t want as much, or me changing my mind (and most likely having a least one subsequential conversation about how good I bet that chocolate pie was?) If I want dessert, I make sure I eat dessert.

I think there are people who don’t know the practical applications of this principle. People who enjoy what they have, yes. Who cultivate intentions of having good and desirable things, yes. But sometimes I think these people follow timelines created by a culture that doesn’t offer individualized specifications, and by the time they realize and decide what they want, it’s gone. I think sometimes people get so caught up pursuing good things and competing (whether with others or with themselves) in an endless race to be better and more that by the time they stop to evaluate what they really want, they realize they haven’t the room to take it in. And I certainly think that every single day there are people who after changing their mind (because it’s their prerogative) wonder what might’ve been because they were too ___________ to give it a chance.

I think it’s sad.

I don’t want that.

My hope is that I would be someone who is constantly evolving, constantly weeding out things old and unused, things that have become ineffective or impractical, to make room for better things—things that will stretch me, grow me, make me better. I hope that I never become so self-satisfied, not even so engulfed by a passion or project, that I forget to look outside myself, that I forget to let others contribute to…well, to me. I want to make room in real time not theory. I want to live as if this is all I have, this here and now, this hurt and pain and beauty and love. I don’t want to have to make room for good things, for things that I love, I want to have some room ready and waiting, and when those things come along, I want to embrace them, then and there, and enjoy them and treasure them and have no regrets.

Isn’t that what you want too?

the key to learning

I think it’s safe to say that for most of us repetition is the key to learning. For myself especially I know that learning anything looks a lot like processing any single thing multiple times with multiple perspectives and generally the same outcome. I find that even if I believe something, there inevitably has to be a point where I question and analyze that thing a few times before the belief becomes real to me.

For the past few months I’ve been learning a lot about what it looks like to be faithful in the mundane. What obedience means when you’re just…normal. Where the beauty lies when you’re not doing anything big or seemingly significant. I’ve been learning about true freedom and what that means for my expectations. Of both myself and others. (A lesson I don’t feel like there will ever be an end to my learning)

It’s been interesting to say the least. And even the very first time I was confronted with idea of beauty being present in mundane boring things, I believed in its existence, its truth, its importance. And so I began saying it. I began telling people about how that’s what I was seeking and that’s what I was investing in. I found myself changing the way I viewed and explained my job, my hobbies, my stuff in general. Some people got it and some people didn’t. And honestly some days I get it and some days I don’t.

But there’s another principle I firmly believe in, and that is “if you say something often enough, you will start to believe it”. We see it in culture all the time–body image, societal motivations, even religious organizations thrive by the practicality of that statement. Now this can be a dangerous thing, totally, absolutely, without a doubt, but it also can be a really helpful thing when your heart and your head just can’t seem to play nice.

Recently I found myself talking to a new person—explaining these things and my focus and my passion and my belief in what the unknown future holds. I realized as I was saying—repeating really—things I’ve been saying for a while now, that I meant them. And not just believed them, but I felt them. And I said them with absolutely no hesitation and only felt satisfaction and confidence and joy resting in my chest. Somewhere along the way something transformed and became not just something external that I believed or said, but rather a part of me.

I don’t really know how it happened, and I don’t really know how to explain it even. But I do know that it’s made a world of difference. And I guess the whole point of this is just to say, Don’t Give Up. (Never Quit, Never Surrender) If you know you believe something and can’t quite feel it, keep digging deep and allow yourself to rest and become comfortable in the tension because eventually that tension becomes a beautiful place of support and strength that you likely don’t even realize you’re cultivating for yourself.

you do you.

PS i got a new job which i guess is the real culmination of this experience in my life, but i’m going to save that for another post.

as always, thanks for reading.

-j

the side effects of being over-caffeinated

How do you know when you have a crush on someone? Sometimes it’s hard for me to gauge my emotions. (don’t worry; my therapist says that being aware is a big, good step forward. cool.) Ridiculous or no, though, I have a hard time with things that aren’t logical. If it doesn’t make sense, I’m going to struggle; I can promise you that. I know what you’re all thinking “But Jenna, how do you even live in a world where bologna is spelled “b-o-l-o-g-n-a” with an attitude like that?” I’ll tell you how. I stopped eating meat. Take that, inconsistencies!*

Feelings do not make sense. The only consistent thing about them is that they are always changing. (This is where my most favorite English Professor would say “…mutability” in this slow, almost creepy way to ingrain in our minds the inevitability of change and its significant impact on all good literature, but none of you were there, so it’s not funny to you like it is me–why am I still writing about this?!) Where were we? Right, FEELINGS. They are the worst. So in working with something so impossibly challenging, I of course see a personal challenge. How do you master feelings? You create a framework for them to function within, then you pretend like they naturally make sense (and ignore the fact that they only make sense because you’ve now manipulated the system and shaped everything to your liking).

I realize that the only convincing I’ve done so far is to assure you that I am indeed a hot mess, mentally (and otherwise if we’re being real, but come on you guys we can’t follow every rabbit trail), so now let me attempt to convince us that feelings can be logical.

A quick poll of some people I know ( I mean, people on the streets because we’re all about objectivity here)** revealed that there are a few consistencies present in the emergence of a developing “crush”. (At this point I would like to be commended for avoiding the rabbit trail of discussion regarding why “being minimally attracted to without pressure or excessive expectation of someone” is referred to as having a “crush on someone”. I want to OED this business so bad, but I won’t. For your sake, and actually more so because I don’t think I have access to that database anymore and because I don’t want to put you to sleep with my fondness of semantics.) (LONGEST PARENTHETICAL ASIDES EVER; I FEEL SO DICKENSIAN RIGHT NOW) Apparently one begins the process of recognizing one is beginning the process of “crushing” by noting the evidence of the following things:

1. You become a stalker (albeit a socially accepted one).
Two words. Social. Media. It starts simply enough, “Oh, I’ll just scroll through their twitter feed.” You think it’s innocent enough; you feel like you’re just getting a feel for their sense of humor, but before you know it you’re pages deep and you’ve decided you know with complete accuracy their driving motivations, (potential) favorite Girl Scout cookie type, and (theoretically) who they voted for 2 elections ago. This is the point where you should exercise restraint. But you don’t, not if you’re crushing. No, no, if you’re crushing, this is the part where you start clicking on @replies and reading complete conversations between PEOPLE YOU DON’T EVEN KNOW. This is how you learn that they love Garth Brooks or went to the Bahamas last year or have 4 siblings and are pseudo-dating a girl named Carla. This can be a turning point for you because these things, that you’re not even supposed to know yet, will either solidify your commitment to stalk or end your PI days before they ever stand a chance. Should you choose to continue down this slippery slope, you move towards the next apparent signifier.

2. You become a good stalker (and probably not as socially acceptable as you are with stage one).
You’ve decided that their weird infatuations and *surely* innocent connections with all the other people they talk to are not a threat, so now you’re safe to move on to, let’s say, Instagram. Apparently being really curious about what they’re seeing and doing is important to you if you have a crush on someone. Sometimes it gets weird here, because as I discovered (in that completely objective poll I mentioned earlier) good media stalking goes hand in hand with real-life-someone-could-probably-press-charges-against-you stalking. One minute you’re scrolling through scores of sunsets, the next you’re accidentally cooing over a picture you found (probably by perusing their “tagged pictures”) of them giving butterfly kisses to a kitten they saved from the top of an oak tree and the next minute you’re accidentally ‘heart-ing’ a photo of them at a coffee shop that you’re going to just-so-happen to appear at 20 minutes later, and friends, that’s the end for you.

But maybe you’re not convinced yet. Maybe you need more hard-hitting evidence (It’s me. I’m the choir I’m preaching to here). Good thing for me you I always over-do it with the research.

3. You get really intentional.
You’re introverted? You’ve never said one word to AH single friend in their group, ever before? Those days are gone. Now you are so super into ALL the different things ol’ Margret can knit in under 5 minutes and you’ve at least heard of InDesign, so duh you’ll totally make some posters for their friends in that one up-and-coming band. What’s that? Your group is going bowling? Sure, bowling is gross and unsanitary and only minimally entertaining, but if their friends love it, SO. DO. YOU. and you will be there. with bells on, and maybe one of everyone’s favorite kind of cookie in hand too. “Tell me again about that one time he/she got really embarrassed over that one thing…” you’ll request. “Oh how funny”, you’ll say as you make a mental note to never ever suggest sushi or anything with rooftop seating. Can’t be too careful.

The next piece of evidence I’ll submit for review was apparently inevitable and present in 110% of all cases of “crushing”.

4. You get weird.
Word on the street is that no matter how hard you try to be cool, you will end up being an idiot. Examples may include, but are not strictly limited to:

Crush: Did you see that funny thing on Fallon last night?
You: Duh. So hilarious.
sidenote: you didn’t.
Crush: ((yeah.))
You: ((Gasp for air because you’re like wheeze-laughing to prove you really did see it and you thought it was so super funny.))

Crush:You know sometimes I dip my fries in ranch.
You: OMG. Sometimes I go an entire week without showering.
sidenote: you do not at all understand the rules of this game
Crush: ((yikes))
You: ((hippies are coooooooooool shoulder shrug))

Crush: Hey do you want to grab a strawberry smoothie?
You: Of course! They’re my favorite
sidenote: you’re actually really allergic to strawberries
Crush: ((Cool, things in common))
You: ((YAYY THINGS IN COMMON. LACK OF BREATHING CAPABILITIES. DEATH))

5.You find yourself saying “Who am I?” a lot. (and you mean it. you’re legitimately confused about it).
I think once you find this particular phenomenon beginning to happen you’re more than likely also saying “He [she] smells good” and you’re having a hard time looking them in the eyes and you’re completely unable to fathom why your hair suddenly “NEVER works the way it should” (actual quote from research). And the butterflies. Let’s include them here.*** Those things are multiplying like freshman girls at a Leagues show, and somehow you don’t find the feeling of imminent potential vomit enough of a deterrent to alter any of your current life choices. Having a crush is maybe the boldest thing you can do.

My mom says “You know when you smile if you think of them”. Which whatever, because by that same logic I’m crushing on multiple burritos, nail polishes, and dead poets. but yeah, she’s probably right.

Or, maybe none of this is true. And maybe you just “know when you know”. Nah, that’s dumb. Look for the signs, and be sure to over-analyze things that way if you do end up having a crush you can realize it before you commit too many social faux pas-es (uhhh, French plurals, SOS). Or just do you. Either way, good luck and God speed.

*Although I am in fact a vegetarian, it has absolutely nothing to do with the spelling of a fake sandwich meat.
**This is also not true; I am being just the biggest liar in this post.
***Did you know that caterpillars literally DIGEST THEMSELVES to become butterflies? (Did I just get weird on you?) (DO I HAVE A CRUSH ON YOU?!)

It was the best of times, it was the

When I was in second grade, my elementary school made us all take a bunch of tests. They had all these (seemingly) boring questions about random stuff, and they were all timed, so naturally I loved them. What’s that? You want me to solve this problem about a tiger holding an hourglass and pickle, escaping a moving a train with no windows but a semi-working floor hatch AND I get out of class for it? I’m in. The result of these tests was me getting to leave class every week for a few hours to join with (maybe 7) others (I really feel a little guilty for not remembering any of them) in an awesome room that had tons of cool models and activities and books my regular classroom didn’t have just so we could all sit around and write made-up mystery stories (you’re looking at the 1st place [AMONGST SECOND THROUGH FOURTH GRADE] winner for most creative fiction story 1995) and watch documentaries about the ocean and stuff.

It helped me cope. I wasn’t the quiet one in GT; I wasn’t the over-achiever; I wasn’t the teacher’s pet; and no one tried to cheat off of me, ever. I never had to raise my hand or even speak out loud if I didn’t want to (although in my later elementary school years they would make me read parts of plays in front of the group. and I wouldn’t hate it anymore). It was a place where we were free from all conventional schooling restraints and could decide and figure out who we were and what we were about. We didn’t have to melt into a mold that one of the class Alicias or Treys had decided we needed to fit into, and we didn’t have to try and impress anyone because we were already all super impressed with each other. There was an unspoken understanding between us all. It was glorious.

But I remember, still so vividly, something that happened with one of the girls when I was in fourth grade. (a couple things I vividly remember actually, but the other was when I locked one of the Brittneys into a trunk on accident and we had to find the janitor to break her out. Very traumaticDRAMATIC situation, but a story for another day).

Fourth grade was the year I took a “read-as-many-words-as-you-can-in-one-minute” test and finished the entire page full, but missed one word because I pronounced “our” as “are”. Like my poor 8 year old drawl hadn’t suffered enough differentiating between “then” and “than”.  I digress.

There was a girl in my GT class named Katherine. I remembered her from second grade because one time she brought a note to my teacher and this awful boy named Peyton made mean faces at her and she almost cried and I already hated Peyton because he had my name and he was a jerk, and obviously no one wants to share their name with a jerk. By fourth grade, she had toughened up. She had also grown. A lot. She was a good head and shoulders taller than all the rest of us and she had long, bright red hair. I thought she was awesome.

Every now and then we would have GT together, and she would stand on a stool with a boa draped around her shoulders and give a dramatic reading of Judy Blume’s Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing because we were prolific like that. She also had this deep, gut laugh that made you smile even if you didn’t want to. She was cool before kids in fourth grade knew what cool really was.

One day she brought a note into my homeroom class (apparently in her classes, she was always most trusted at carrying important papers through halls). I don’t remember exactly what happened, but I think she tripped or something while she was at the front of the room by the board. I remember looking up because several people in the room audibly laughed and most of the others snickered. (Meanwhile, I was too busy reading ahead to have even seen what happened. sheesh.)

Her reaction is what I remember the most. I can still see her there, her cheeks were only a little pink, shoulders only a little slouched and she turned to face the class and loudly made a remark about what a klutz she was. Then she bopped herself on the head and started a 20 second tirade about how ‘she’s such a dummy and she can’t do anything or go anywhere’, all while laughing and wiggling around, working the stage. I suppose it should be impressive that a fourth grader instinctively behaved this way, but I remember I instantly felt really sad.

I didn’t know why. Maybe it was because my 60+ year old teacher looked slightly mortified and I was identifying with her emotions, but maybe it’s because of what I didn’t know I knew then.

Self-depreciation is not cool.
Watching her squirm, no matter how cool I still thought she was, was sad.
Watching a nine year old begin to define herself by the opinions of her peers made me feel sad.
Watching a room full of peers assigning worth to someone made me sad. I know this is what was happening because I know what happened next. After she left, our class got scolded. Then for the rest of the day kids re-enacted the entire scene. Then for the next week, a few specific words or actions would elicit laughter. Then for the rest of the year, kids periodically made fun of her. And by spring Katherine was the only kid I personally knew who visited the school counselor.

As an adult, I can apply a lot more meaning to the situation. I can understand better what was actually happening. And I can see how we begin to mold our character long before we ever understand what we’re doing.

Here’s what I began to construct that day (well probably long before that day, but what I can see happening in myself that day). I wanted to control the situation. I wanted to will my classmates to behave tactfully. I wanted her to stop making fun of herself, to know that it wasn’t a big deal, and she was still cool, and she didn’t need to be affected by 300 measly seconds of time. I wanted my teacher to be proud of me for not laughing. I wanted to bring the composure back, restore the equilibrium between all involved parties, and then calmly observe the symmetry.

You see, I’m cool with change. I like mystery. I love a crowd. But they wear me out, and in order for me to exist as freely as I’m capable of, I feel like I need to know the boundaries. I need to be able to predict things and call them what they are, THEN things can be as chaotic as they wish to be. What I began to do was take it upon myself to become the equilibrium. I’m not a people-pleaser. I’m not a soothe-sayer. But I am a diffuser of awkward. I am an insulator of feelings.

The problem with being this is that sometimes you take things upon yourself that aren’t for the taking.You assume you must when really you shouldn’t. At some point, because your system has served you well, because it has given you identity and worth and most importantly, Control, you fight for it. But at another fairly close and completely related point, it drains you. It takes everything from you, because you have to pour all you have into sustaining other people and things.

Then at at yet another point, much further down the road, you realize you don’t know how you feel because you’ve been too busy either feeling other people’s feelings for them or negating other people’s feelings for them. When you have to feel–when you choose to feel–you find it leaves you empty.

I don’t have answers yet. I don’t even know why I really wrote this post other than I kept thinking about Katherine yesterday, and my therapist says it’s good for my growth to write about the things I’m learning and working through. So, three cheers for over-sharing! And another three for friends who will read this and will feel over-joyed that I shared rather than over-shared with. You’re the best.

((and because I know you’re all dying to know, the story I won the creative writing award for was about whale blubber. And it was a mystery. I know you’re too impressed for words.))

A Single Girl’s Guide to Life (and/or Valentine’s Day)

As a single lady, people will make all sorts of inaccurate assumptions about you. They will also give you unwelcomed advice. This post does both. Assuming you can get past that, I’ve comprised a guide for my fellow ladies on how to live…life…and/or Valentine’s Day.

Single ladies always get dissed on because they like to call V-Day Single Appreciation Day or a holiday created by greeting card companies (which, if this is you, READ A HISTORY BOOK). So, first things first, Don’t Hate Valentine’s Day. And please for love of Jane Austen, coffee, and all things holy, do NOT call it Gal-entine’s Day. You may however say ANY of the following things, and if you choose to do so, please know I want to be your bff.

leslie-knope-ovaries-before-broveries1

Single ladies are always assumed to be bored or lonely. So, nextly, (and this is really crazy and lengthy, so look out) Do Something. Don’t want to sit at home? Don’t. Tired of playing solitaire? Play my personal favorite game, “Bet-On-Your-Unsingle-Friends’-Relationships”. Grab a few other single ladies and place your bets: How long is this couple going to last? When will that one get engaged? Will they be married by the end of this year? Loser buys dinner. (And depending on your mood or inclination, everyone is a winner or everyone is a loser in alternative versions of this game).

(my current bets are for March, May, and by December 31,2014)

Single ladies always act like they can’t dress up without approval or plausible cause. Wrong! Put On Some Heels. And I’m going to cater this tip to this holiday in particular, don’t act like you not wearing pajamas and Uggs tonight will cause the world to implode. You know those shoes you only put on when you need to hang the star on your Christmas tree or get that cobweb from the corner above the fridge? Well, dust ’em off girlfriend, because you’re wearing them tonight! And even better, 98% of the people you see will be on dates, so no one will try to hit on you or comment on how tall and intimidating you are. SorryNotSorry, suckas!

I’ve heard urban legends of Single ladies who think it’s okay to still play pretend when they’re out of middle school/well into their 20s. Having an active imagination is probably a good thing, but please oh please, Don’t send yourself flowers. [Read: Don’t pretend like you have some secret super model banging down your door, but like, he’s way too attractive to be seen in daylight and like, so for real too busy to stop by and meet everyone, but has the jaw line of a young Brad Pitt and the eyes of an experienced George Clooney so everyone just calm down.] You may not believe this is a thing; I didn’t, but 2/2 girls told me they’ve heard/seen this happen first-hand. WHAT?! stop it. Pick some flowers out of the grass behind your apartment, but don’t send them to your workplace.

Single girls also really enjoy a good cry (EXAMPLE). And I get it, tension release, freedom, the cleansing from days/weeks/months of mascara build-up-it’s all liberating, but please Don’t curl up with The Notebook OR THE TIME TRAVELER’S WIFE. Seriously, crying can be cathartic, but watching an impossible love take place between two people genetically engineered to make you swoon will not somehow make any of what you’re seeing a probable or even possible reality in your life. Let’s be real, Ally was kind of a brat, and pulling even half of the crap she did would be enough for any real life Noah to throw up some deuces and hit the road. AND don’t EVEN get me started on that time traveling crap. If time is relevant, wibbly wobbly if you will, then love is a joke. I could rant for days about that movie (and about how I literally continued crying for 3 hours after I saw it), but I don’t believe it’s necessary. Stick with the Burlesques and Devil Wears Pradas tonight, friends.

I for one, as a single girl, still love Valentine’s day. And I loved making cards for my friends to let them know they make my life happier than I can make it alone. And I love making reservations to spend an entire meal with people I love talking about life and laughing about…well mostly boys and movies and how you probably shouldn’t paint your nails while driving. I love dancing in parking lots and living rooms and belting out some Pat Benatar with random strangers at karaoke. So THAT’S what I’ll be doing (probably as you’re reading this) ((well maybe not right as, because the only time I could get a dinner reservation for 3 girls was 5:45pm, so at this moment I’m probably chatting up the other 80 year olds about what Valentine’s Day was like back in the 50s and did people still like chocolate this much, because how could they not, and yes, I get it, I’m not getting any younger, and why are we still talking to you, you’re ruining our night)). And I’ll be imitating Prince, just like this all night, because, duh, why would you ever not aspire to be this way?

the great gamble.

Recently I was asked to contribute my voice and skill-set to a publication and in doing so I got to join in on some really cool stories happening at and through the church I’ve been serving at for the past few years. One of the experiences was especially touching to me, so I decided to share it here. This is only place it can be read in entirety too, so win-win!

Obviously you can read the article below and figure out what was happening that night. But since you likely don’t go there, it probably won’t mean as much to you. That’s cool. Because what I really want to talk about is the things I learned through the experience of collecting these glimpses into people’s stories, and I feel pretty confident you’ll relate to those much more easily. Somewhere in this creative process I gambled a bit of my soul, poured it all in to digging deep alongside others, but as is (potentially necessary?) apt to happen, the cards were eventually stacked against me and I saw unappealing, hurtful consequences of making yourself completely defenseless and trusting. Time will heal all wounds and all that gooey cliche goodness, but until then, here’s what I’m walking away with.

First I learned that sometimes it’s important to work on a good thing just because it’s a good thing. I “learned” that by reading it in a book my friend KB just got me; it has lots of awesome, inspiring quotes in it and one was “Work for something because it is good, not just because it stands a chance to succeed”. Really hard lesson, really good truth. Read it again.

Next I learned that you can only speak where you can speak. If your platform is taken away, build another one. What’s that? It’s lower? No one can hear you because your new platform is actually the one at Grand Central Terminal? No matter, the homeless guy sitting nearby can no doubt hear just fine. That’s two ears, and sheesh, how many do you really need? (That whole thing is a metaphor for me writing/sharing this stuff on my blog…don’t you wish your English professors in college would have spelled things out like that when you were reading Homer?)

Another lesson, that is still totally in progress, is to keep trusting. I believe that’s important. I believe that to be kingdom people, we have to live in the kingdom…not in our heads. But I really want to live in my head right now. And I really want to clinch my fist and smirk because my cynicism knew it all along. I don’t believe I should. And I don’t believe I will, but it’s taking a lot to remember, to relearn, the importance of unrestrained, unmerited trust. I’ll get there. We all will.

(And to help paint a picture of the story below, here are some actual pictures)

Luke

father/daughter

 

Lucas Zegelien began a personal relationship with Jesus just this last summer. Although his faith walk has just begun, his parents are excited about leading the way and setting examples for him. His mom, Traci, says “We’re excited about My First Communion tonight because it’s one more step in making his faith real for him.” The Zegeliens see the importance in teaching their son about this tradition, and as Paul puts it, “Experiencing it is more impacting than just telling him about it; and what better way is there than with our church family?”

The night began with Children’s Minister Nic Allen addressing the families and explaining to them the thought behind this parent-requested event. “This family communion experience is really important. It elevates two of our primary values.

The first of course, is communion itself. It’s a vital expression of our faith story. The second is family. Parents are the primary spiritual developers of their kids, and having moms and dads lead their kids through this experience is incredible!” From there the kids and their parents made a craft representing a spiritual truth that they as believers can claim with confidence, and then they moved into a time of learning the history behind as well as leading up to “The Lord’s Supper”. After the group watched a clip from the movie The Prince of Egypt, Nic discussed the tradition of remembering and celebrating God’s power in what he has done for his people throughout the ages.

Although Nic taught in a way that tied together traditions and elements the kids were familiar with, the truth in his teaching is relevant for us all. When we approach the table, do we remember the beauty and fear associated with the God we serve? Do we remember the protection he’s given his people century after century; do we celebrate his matchless grace? The kids at this First Communion Experience were led to celebrate all these things, and furthermore, they were encouraged to celebrate together. They passed the cup among their family; they broke bread together; they got to not only hear, but see the bond of Christ in action among their families—both physical and spiritual.

As Nic encouraged those in attendance that night, taking communion together isn’t something we have to wait to do until we are lead in a church service. We can and should be remembering Christ together all the time. But for those who are new believers, especially kids, this quarterly gathering to learn and grow together is a great place to start.

the roaring twenties.

Sometimes I get really confused by those of us fortunate enough to be in our 20s. All the time I feel like I find myself encountering situations where someone I feel like I know pretty well does something that doesn’t at all seem consistent with who they are or what they’re about. And I get it, we’re trying to find out where we belong and what we’re good at, and if others are like me, we’re afraid of settling into wherever we happen to be right now just in case it’s wrong. …Ok, so maybe now I’m projecting onto the rest of my people, but I feel like I can’t possibly be the only one who feels that.

What if what we’re passionate about isn’t worthwhile? And what if our goals just aren’t attainable? What if the quirks of our personalities that we think are endearing are actually offensive?
So the doubt begins to drive decisions. It makes self proclaimed homebodies decide that they want to leave the house at 9:00 to go hang out with friends at a loud get together. People who have lived and learned about themselves start putting themselves back in situations that even the 8th grade version of themselves knows will not end well. We’re so afraid of being wrong.
And worse, being wrong without getting the chance to make it right. Because now suddenly, the stakes are higher, and everyone’s current favorite thing to do is dissect millennials and their choices and faults and impossibilities. The margin for error seems slim.
So how do we cope?  By experimenting? By selling out?
I’d like to believe that those two things aren’t synonymous. I want to push myself; I want to grow; I don’t want routine for routine’s sake. But I want to be confident in who I am. I don’t want to constantly doubt all the things I’ve come to know. I don’t think true wisdom is mutable; the applications of it, sure, but not wisdom itself, and I don’t want to act as if it is.
So take that, twenties! (I don’t know how to end this post) But this seems fitting.

hesed.

Gettin’ all cultured up in here, folks. Assuming you, like myself, don’t read Hebrew, I owe you an explanation. “Hesed” apparently means “loyal love” and it’s the characteristic that describes the girl Ruth in the Bible. Recently I went home for a quick weekend trip to celebrate birthdays and babies and best friends and such. That Sunday at church, the pastor was talking about Ruth, and I really enjoyed his study. For the most part.

Now the part I “don’t like” has nothing to do with him, or what he did or didn’t say, or what the Bible does or doesn’t say. It’s more a qualm I have with our Christian culture today, in general. (Surprise, Surprise! Are you surprised? No? didn’t think so) So the whole thing about Ruth being a woman of loyal love and how counter-cultural that is today is amazing. I love that. I want to cultivate that character trait in myself. But then, you throw a boy up in the mix and suddenly things aren’t as balanced anymore.

Apparently, when Ruth went to this new land where she was completely out of place and unknown, Boaz, this perfect, awesome, Godly, protector noticed her. And he apparently noticed her immediately. And not only all that, but he also heard about her character before he ever had the chance to notice her.

Awwww how sweet.

For Boaz and Ruth.

It drives me absolutely bananas when things like this get peddled as absolute truth. Did that happen? Sure. Are all the things that its happening showed/show us about God and his character still true? Yes. Is this how it will happen for the rest of us? Maybe. If I act like Ruth, will someone else acting like Boaz suddenly become part of my story? Doubtful. Because I’m not Ruth. And No one else is Boaz. They’re people just like we’re people, and for the same reason you acting like me won’t yield for you my results, me acting like Ruth won’t yield to me her results.

You see, it’s easy for me to pursue something by myself, to better myself by seeking objective truth, but I have absolutely no control and nothing to do with who notices. No. Control. And honestly, that’s really hard for me. I hate it. I want control. It’s in my blood. But there is absolutely nothing I can do to make someone else notice anything. And more than that, there is nothing I can do to make anyone else be what I need.

I just need us to stop giving Ruth and Boaz all the credit. God brought them together. Because he knew all about each of them, deeply, entirely. He provided for each of them exactly what each of them needed, how they needed it, when they needed it. And I think it had a lot less to do with what they were doing to get there, and a lot more to do with God’s ultimate plan and sovereignty. I can’t live under the pressure of, well maybe you’re not pursuing hard enough, or giving all enough, or maybe you’re loving more passionately instead of loyally.

Sometimes we are loving as hard as we can. And we are serving God because we want to, and we don’t want anything from it, and we are daily being transformed from the inside out. And no one notices.

That’s okay for/with me.

And I think we need to learn how to be okay with it on behalf of others too.

the Mundane.

Last week during small groups, we discussed faithfulness. We also watched a few videos and one of them just really resonated with me and the things I’m doing and learning right now, so I wanted to share. You can watch the video here if you’d like (and I highly recommend that you do).

Basically in the briefest of summaries, he says, it shouldn’t be a surprise that most of our lives are an invitation to be faithful in the most basic, regular things. He’s talking about what it looks like to be faithful in the mundane, to love and live and glorify even if all we do is live life…normally.

Now I’ve shared what I’m learning about what it looks like to love God where you are, to not always look for the “big” thing that brings the “most” glory, and yes, it is a hard lesson to walk through. Even in the last week I had to make a decision about joining an awesome team that’s going to be doing great outreach things in a new area with a new/different population or staying with an awesome team that’s reaching people where they are and doing great things in teaching what it looks like to keep going and dig deep. I caught myself in the midst of that hard decision thinking, “but where will God get the most glory”? And that’s a slippery slope, because here’s the thing, he doesn’t need me, all the glory is already his, and my part is done when I’m where I’m supposed to be, not because I align myself to something that I’ve rationalized will logically get more glory than some other thing. It’s not fair to analyze glory getting and giving, you know?

All of that to say, I’m still in that cyclical motion of failing to remember/teaching myself/remembering that it is OK to be faithful where you are. And it is beautiful to be faithful in the mundane things of life. I don’t want to be the person who’s remembered for doing huge awesome, catalyst starting things, I want to be the person who shows up when they’re supposed to, picks up trash just because I saw it, and smiles because I can. I want to be remembered for my integrity and consistency, and how else can you even begin to do that than by investing in the mundane details, day in, and day out?

I’d argue that you can’t.

My favorite part of small group last week was that when we talked about which video resonated most with what we were learning at this stage of our journeys, 3/4 of a diverse group chose this video. And we were able to relate this basic concept of beauty and fulfillment to multiple situations/stages of life. I’ll leave you with this quote, because this is the invitation I think we all want to say yes to.

“Our lives are unimpressive, basically uninteresting. Most of the things that all of us do are undramatic. And if we can’t live beautifully into that, then the opportunities we have for the very exciting things are wasted on us. I think there’s a beautiful invitation in the undramatic, also the contemplative.”