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.

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Type 5 on a Monday

 

Again with the Enneagram? YES, it’s my blog so suck it up. Just thought I’d share some insight into me, because even though reading this in a CAC email first thing on a Monday morning was not the most fun, it’s all true. It’s been really cool to read more about each Enneagram number for the past week, but this is what I’ve been waiting for. I love the Enneagram as a resource for learning but also for growing. Good. Stuff. (post with life updates coming soon)

Type Five: The Need to Perceive

The Five appears to be the headiest of all the head types (Five, Six, and Seven). Their primal experience as an Eight Soul Child was of the absolute order of God and the genius of controlling all the parts in one working universe. Fives go inside the mind to find the power that they were denied, or denied themselves, in the external world.   The sin of the Five is avarice (or greed), and they are avaricious for knowledge, thoughts, ideas, silence, and space. To them, knowledge is power and they can never know enough to fill the emptiness they feel inside. Fives always need yet another course, another book, another silent retreat. They are always observing, often from a safe back corner. Fives spend most of their lives behind a one-way mirror through which they can look out, but won’t let you look back at them.  

Fives try not to be drawn into the whirlpool of feelings and events but instead develop their own kind of “objectivity.” It’s important to them to remain calm—at least externally—and to keep their emotions under control. In reality, most Fives have an intense emotional life. But at the moment something happens, it’s as if their emotions are blocked and always come limping behind. At first Fives register something with eyes, ears, and brain; they can stand alongside the event with seeming objectivity. As soon as they are alone, they begin to evaluate it, once again from the head. That’s how they gradually get in touch with their emotions, if they do at all.  

Detachment can be seen as the virtue of the Five. Fives can be outstanding listeners and counselors. Their ability to withdraw themselves emotionally can help those seeking advice to appraise their own situation more clearly. But detachment can also be seen as the Five’s greatest weakness. Among the life tasks of Fives is learning commitment and action. Fives have to fall in love passionately. “Learning to love” is one of their great challenges because it crashes up against their wish for distance. Fives who won’t allow themselves to “lose their heads” in love are incomplete. Without it, they remain emotionally stingy all of their lives.  

Meditation and prayer are for Fives crucially important sources of power. Fives need to cultivate their inner world in order to find the courage to devote themselves to the outer world. The latter becomes possible only when the inner world is experienced as less threatening, when Fives have found repose and security in God and hence in themselves. Meditating on the Incarnation, that is, the commitment and passion of Christ, his readiness to get his hands dirty and heal human beings by touching them, can reconnect the Five with their Soul Child, the Eight.  

Redeemed Fives link their knowledge to a search for wisdom and strive for a sympathetic knowledge of the heart. They have a quiet inner power and are tenderly emotional, loving, polite, hospitable, and gentle—while also protecting strong personal boundaries.  

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.”

What’s Your Story

I recently got an email about Donald Miller’s new project, Storyline. It’s a pretty cool thing he’s exploring, and I really want to read it/get involved (more so than just the profile I created on mysubplot and haven’t viewed again since).
He gives three keys to having more impact, and although most of this post will be ka-wotes (quotes), they’re so good, I feel no need to paraphrase.
  • Move from Fuzzy to Clear Ambitions

The reason Martin Luther King, Winston Churchill and Mother Theresa all lived great stories is because they, and the rest of the world, knew exactly what they wanted. King wanted racial equality, Churchill wanted to defeat Hitler and Mother Theresa wanted dignity for the poor. So, if we want to live impactful stories, our ambitions must be just as clear. Take out a piece of paper today and write down what your primary ambitions are. Meditate and pray about them. This one step will make you a much more compelling person. Try doing this the second you finish reading this article. It won’t be long before people around you begin to see you as a leader, simply because you have clear ambitions.

  • Move from Conflict Avoidant to Conflict Engaging

All great characters have to go through conflict. Without conflict, stories are boring and characters don’t change. Real-life people are the same. The more we avoid conflict, the less impact we will have. Are you avoiding conflict? Procrastinating? Not reconciling with somebody? Write down three things you are avoiding, tackle them today, and tomorrow you’ll be living with less stress. And you’ll have an enormous amount of self-respect. Great characters engage conflict peacefully and easily.

  • Choose Meaning over Pleasure

Pleasure isn’t always bad. In fact, pleasure is mostly good. But when pleasure drives us, we end up living sad stories. Our ambitions should be more meaningful. When we choose what we want our lives to be about, we would do better to choose relational endeavors. Sure, it’s okay to make a lot of money. But if our lives are all about making money, we won’t contribute much to the well being of our loved ones. Make your ambitions heartfelt. Choose to want a great marriage, to have a well-loved family, to be a supportive listener, to be a protective leader. Make each of your ambitions count by connecting them to the well-being of others.

End Quote. I just don’t even know what else to say. Our stories are so important, and telling them well is such a hard thing sometimes. I bolded some of my favorite tid-bits and gems, and I really want to be better at doing these things. I’ll keep ya updated. And you hold me accountable, ok? ok.

 

Poets and Progress, y’all.

“To feel today what one felt yesterday isn’t to feel– it’s to remember today what was felt yesterday, to be today’s living corpse of what yesterday was lived and lost.” -Fernando Pessoa (Portuguese Poet)

Maybe I’ve blogged this before. But whatever. It’s such a good quote. And it’s cool to me that his last name means “person” in Portuguese. So, his name is Fernando Person. Dude.
Also, I’ve just recently scheduled several posts I found in my email. Good news, this blog will finally be consistent for about 2 weeks. Bad news, they’re way random and slightly unfinished (being that some of them were drafted in 2010…oops). Or maybe that’s not bad news. Just dig deep and try to enjoy regardless, friends.
xoxo
-j

“I have chosen you”

We are apt to forget the mystical, supernatural touch of God. If you can tell where you got the call of God and all about it, I question whether you have ever had a call. The call of God does not come like that, it is much more supernatural. The realization of it in a man’s life may come with a sudden thunder-clap or with a gradual dawning, but in whatever way it comes, it comes with the undercurrent of the supernatural, something that cannot be put into words, it is always accompanied with a glow. At any moment there may break the sudden consciousness of this incalculable, supernatural, surprising call that has taken hold of your life – “I have chosen you.” The call of God has nothing to do with salvation and sanctification. It is not because you are sanctified that you are therefore called to preach the gospel; the call to preach the gospel is infinitely different. Paul describes it as a necessity laid upon him.

-Chambers, “The Consciousness of the Call”, My Utmost for His Highest

school stuffs is starting to equal life stuffs.

 

nerdville.

One time several months ago, a friend asked me what my Top 10 MUST READ books were. I felt (and still feel) like it was a super somewhat unfair request to make, but I’ve been thinking about it ever since and have comprised a list I feel pretty ok about. (I do however remain of the opinion that you should only ever ask people to answer that question if you allow them 10 favorites per genre, and yes that means you will probably eventually get a different list of my Top 10 Poems. And Graphic Novels. And maybe even Dramas.)

I’m going to start with my MOST favorite, but after that (and I mean JUST after that [as in the difference between my most favorite and next most favorite is about as slight as the difference in the Olsen twins’ faces]) are my next favorites.

*for those of you who’re already debating closing this window, you can scroll to the bottom for the brief synopsis of my favorites.

  1. Anna Karenina.”He was nine years old; he was a child, but he knew his own soul.“-Leo Tolstoy y’all. this book is so phenomenal. and insane. i love russian lit so much because they (authors and characters alike) are so honest. they feel deeply and talk plainly. they infer; they develop. this book made me cry and laugh and scoff and think; it’s all about souls-finding them, growing them, understanding them. and now they’re making a movie (score!) just don’t ruin this for me, Kiera Knightly.
  2. Counterfeit Gods. “Idols give us a sense of being in control, and we can locate them by looking at our nightmares.”-Tim Keller this book was one of several of keller’s that we did in my bcm small group in college. not only did those girls (we somehow cheated our way into only having three of us in our group) and i become super close through our studies, but the way he described counterfeit gods and the measures we can use to extract them from our lives so practically really changed my life. it made me think differently and that’s what it’s all about.
  3. Pride & Prejudice. Vanity and pride are different things, though the words are often used synonymously. A person may be proud without being vain. Pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves; vanity, to what we would have others think of us.“-Jane Austen i know, i know, i’m a girl…and i love P&P, you’re shocked. but for real. her writing is genius. it’s funny, it’s descriptive, it’s beautiful. jane is the sister I want to be, but lizzie is more of who i am i think. no matter though because both bennet girls teach their own lovely lessons and i love them all.
  4. Blue Like Jazz. “I was talking to a homeless man at a laundry mat recently, and he said that when we reduce Christian spirituality to math we defile the Holy. I thought that was very beautiful and comforting because I have never been good at math. Many of our attempts to understand Christian faith have only cheapened it. I can no more understand the totality of God than the pancake I made for breakfast understands the complexity of me. The little we do understand, that grain of sand our minds are capable of grasping, those ideas such as God is good, God feels, God loves, God knows all, are enough to keep our hearts dwelling on his majesty and otherness forever.”-Donald Miller big quote. big meaning. i chose this book because reading it is when i understood a lot of things that i really just didn’t get at all. at first his tone and stories made me feel a little uncomfortable (again, what good books do…), but when i realized that was the point, and decided that maybe that’s what life’s really all about-living in the tension-that’s when blinders started flying.
  5. The Awakening. “She missed him the days when some pretext served to take him away from her, just as one misses the sun on a cloudy day without having thought much about the sun when it was shining. ”-Kate Chopin sometimes i feel a little guilty for loving this one so much because there’s so many sad unsavory bits to it, but it really is just so beautiful. i love the language, the freedom it represents, the art, the everything! i’m cheating a little because it’s actually a novella, but i could stay lost in this one.
  6. Celebration of Discipline. “The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people.”-Richard Foster i just read this book last year, but it is certainly a have-to-read for all christians trying to grow and understand their faith. it’s practical and painful at times, but it’s great.
  7. Outliers. “Who we are cannot be separated from where we’re from. “-Malcolm Gladwell i first read this in my Rhetoric & Style class in college and for good reason because his style and rhetoric is so powerful and compelling that you forget you’re reading statistics and theories and only hear a story. i love that not only is the message optimistic, but it’s done well. i want to live life like he writes books.
  8. Night. “To forget the dead would be akin to killing them a second time. “-Elie Wiesel from another favorite (but extremely disheartening) college class. this book is important because as he says himself, “Human suffering anywhere concerns men and women everywhere,” and not knowing is just as terrible as not caring. i cry even as i type about this book because it’s so powerful, and as horrifying as it still is, the kind of blatant honesty Elie writes with is what we need today. this book will forever remind me that forgetting isn’t a gift, but a curse.
  9. The Brothers Karamazov. He spoke of many things, he seemed anxious before the moment of death to say everything he had not said in his life, and not simply for the sake of instructing them, but as though thirsting to share with all men and all creation his joy and ecstasy, and once more in his life to open his whole heart.”-Fyodor Dostoyevsky back to my russians y’all. i firmly believe that this book is necessary for every christian to read. if nothing else, at least book V, chapter 2 “The Grand Inquisitor. you. will. think. and think. and think some more. in true russian fashion everyone has 80 names, everyone is wild and unpredictable, honest, and fully engaged. i loved and loathed the characters all at once and that my friends, is a sign of true love.
  10. To Kill a Mockingbird. “People generally see what they look for, and hear what they listen for.”-Harper Lee this book makes me proud to be a Southerner. and not because the theme’s racism, because i don’t even think it is. it’s because as Lee says it, “I think there’s just one kind of folks. Folks.” i love hearing the story from an innocent and i could easily, easily be persuaded to name a child Atticus because we could all use more Atticus-es in our life.

*Summary. If it has stellar character development, makes me cry, makes me think, or teaches me something practical, it’s going to be a favorite. In fact if you didn’t read the middle, don’t sweat it because now that i’m done composing it i’m unbelievably dissatisfied with how inadequate it is at representing my loves. c’est la vie.

the strongest “marriage” conversation maybe ever.

So the other day at work I had the most ridiculous conversation with three of my sweet kindergartners. All girls as if the following conversation wouldn’t be enough proof. It all started because one of the 5 year olds kept talking about how one of the other 5 year olds was her boyfriend. It went like this:

Me: You’re too young for a boyfriend.

G: I’m SIX years old. (this stated with an eye roll so intense I’m still amazed it didn’t hurt her)

Me: Ok, well why do you need a boyfriend?

J: BEcause, we like boys.

Me: Well then what does that mean?

G: We have a friends and it’s a boy.

Me: So you have lots then?

J: Nooooo. A boyfriend is someone you’re gonna hafta marry.

S: I’m gonna marry my daddy even though he’s gonna be a grandpa when I’m old.

J: YOU CAN’T MARRY YOUR PARENTS!

G: Yeah. Because he’ll be dead when you’re old.

[everyone shrugs and continues coloring pictures of tinkerbell]

 

and that friends is why i love my job.