Friday, December 31, 2010

Running Shoes & Peak Performance

The flip in the calendar is like the passing of birthdays: cause for lots of celebration but not really a mark of change. We'll all wake up tomorrow in much the same state that we spent today, maybe a bit bloated or hung-over depending on your celebration style, but life continues on. As melancholy as this may seem, I'm not feeling that way this morning. I'm in a more reflective mood, and that is one definite perk to these time-passage-markers: it provides a culturally approved moment to take stock, set goals, all that jazz.

I was doing just that this morning. Looking over the goals from 2010, I realized I basically forgot about half of them by March, had success on one of them (hurray debt snowball) and and still battling away with the first (weight/food/body image issues). As I thought more holistically about the year, I saw two distinct analogies emerge, both from the land of health and exercise.

The Shoes & The Shoulder
I have been consistently active for the last decade of my life. After discovering my own athleticism after college, I've gone through seasons of marathon training, kickboxing, racquetball, weight-lifting, Zumba, and have loved it. During the season of marathon training (2007, I think that was), I learned the importance of good shoes, a lesson I thought it would be easy to consistently apply as I kept on with my athletic endeavors.

About 18 months ago, I began to notice that, as I walked down the hallway at the Y, my right shoe would squeak. Being from Fun Country, I would sometimes step harder to make it squeak louder or harmonize with the squeak or attempt to sing a song in time with the squeak. But not once did I stop to assess what was causing the squeak. I just kept on Zumba-ing and weight-lifting and elliptical training.

Then, about a year ago, I started not enjoying my workout classes as much because my right hip would ache afterwards. I chalked it up to all the crazy hip-swiveling required by the choreography, so I gradually stopped attending those classes. I was still doing other workouts (right shoe still squeaking, mind you) but I couldn't do what I really loved. Then, on Easter Weekend, I rolled my ankle HARD during class. There I am, flat on my ass, instruction stopped and I'm just barely not crying. I hobbled out of there, called for reinforcements, and spent the weekend with my right foot propped in the air. With aerobics out of the picture, I took about 2.5 weeks and then was back to walking every day (a major backward step in my book) and lifting weights at home. Then, one week later, I rolled it again.

Two weeks later, I ripped a shoulder muscle while wrestling with Sadie and Mason. (That was the middle of May.) Now I'm really out. I cancelled my Y subscription and try to slowly recuperate on my own, but it didn't take long for me to realize that I had no idea how to do that. After a month of pain, started physical therapy at Peak Performance. I didn't want to be squeaking in a doctor's office, so I went and bought new shoes. While trying shoes on, I thought, "I wonder what was causing that squeak." When I finally looked, I found a crack in the sole of the right shoe, just a small one, but definitely enough to squeak. I had been workout out on that crack for almost a year.

I didn't think much about it then because I was full-on into my shoulder rehabilitation. I'm so glad I sought outside help. It took weeks of lifting tiny little weights -- 1 pound, 2 pounds, 3 pounds -- and doing weird stretches, but with a very specific plan and help from an outside source, I was able throw a baseball again without wrenching pain. That happened in August.

In the midst of this part of the year, I was on Young Life Assignment at WFR and sharing the deep wounds of my story during Life Signs (see "Good Enough" from 8/13 for that story). God used that experience to bring up some issues in my heart that needed healing. Over the past four years, I have been moving forward with my life at a fairly motivated pace. Whether it was finishing a Masters Degree, starting a new job, helping to plant a church, or taking up Head Leadership of Davis Young Life, I have just been M-O-V-I-N-G. Sure, things were uber hectic and I knew the pace wasn't really sustainable, but I figured I'd slow down when I had a reason to slow down. Then A-Team and Life Signs happened, and when I slowed down enough to look at the wounds in my heart, my heart started screaming "OUCH!!! STOP TOUCHING ME!!!"

The volatility of that response was enough to get me to see that I needed to slow down. With the start of school, I dropped out of my National Boards class, lessened my commitments at church, and purposefully built more margin into my schedule. It was obvious that, for a long time, I had been moving forward in my life with this deep belief that I had to make men notice me, and if I weren't in tip-top shape (or at least headed that way), then I wouldn't be worth noticing even if I was noticed. I also saw how the pain that comes from feeling overlooked (not being overlooked, mind you, just feeling that way) was not something that I ever stopped to assess or bring to Jesus. I just kept working out and overloading my schedule so that I wouldn't have to deal with the pain of feeling overlooked or the shame attached to feeling overlookable. I kept moving forward attempting to ignore the hurt or numbing it with endorphins and sugar; all the while the shoes of my heart were squeaking but I never stopped to find out why. I never stopped to address the crack in the support system, the lie that I had begun to believe.

It took a physical injury to make me stop, and while stopping has had its benefits, I am starting to see now (after three months of trying to heal on my own from what I saw this summer) that I really don't know how to heal. This fall, I have been filling the space in my schedule with some good things (family time, reading, and the like) but when the pain rears up, I make brownies. I want to get right back to what I have been doing -- leading and going to school and teaching and everything else -- but the injuries are still there. So finally I am calling in for more specific help, people who've walked the path of healing with Jesus to help me learn how to use those muscles correctly and not overcompensate in unhealthy ways.

I want to run -- literally and figuratively -- in the wide open spaces God has for me. But life is full of squeaky shoes, turned ankles, and torn shoulders. I can only run rightly when I take the time to rest and heal, listen for guidance and receive the help I need.

May 2011 bear out the lessons of this year. Next week, I'm buying new shoes.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Every Father Knows

I niether know who this Bill Mallonee is nor have I heard this song, but the lyrics -- included on the back of the Christmas letter from The Syllings -- are worth posting.

Every Father Knows

well the angels sang the sweetest song echoing refrains
the shepherds were up to something maybe drunk again
no there probably wasn't any snow on the ground at the time
though the greeting cards show that sort of thing with a warm and fuzzy rhyme
and the stable is neat and tidy the hygiene is five stars
and the planet it spins lonely as i step out of this bar

now some are lost in shopping malls and some on battlefields
and some are lost in suburbs and some on capitol hills
some are lost on terminal wards or in a nursing home
and some are equally as lost in between their headphones
but whatever your coordinates on your map of shame
rather close or far away we're all lost just the same

the birth of births was like a death
under that hallowed star
still every father know and cares
where his sons and daughters are

so you may wake up a bit confused with the ache that's in your heart
doesn't matter if you got there by choice or got there by default
and every birth shall come with tears and with youth there is a cost
Jesus what's it like to grow up in the shadow of a cross
where You take on more than You could know more than i'd want to say
i put you there a long time ago when i do it every day

Monday, December 13, 2010

Sleep, who needs it

No profound thoughts this night. I'm just miffed that I can't sleep.... again.... I think it has something to do with this new mouthguard I'm supposed to wear at night. Apparently, I grind my teeth. This is one of the downsides to being single and chaste: I have never slept in close enough proximity to another person for long enough time for them to notice. Or, if I have (like on a family vacation), the noise of my grinding molars must have been drowned out by the snores of my siblings.

At any rate, now I have this plasticky thing in my mouth. But I'll wake up and it'll be on the nightstand. Doh. Also, even though I've had it for less than a week, it already has some funky cracks between the malleable plastic and the base. Oh well. I could get a custom fit guard, complete with inlaid glitter, but I'm not sure if I want to make that kind of investment. :-)

I also think I would sleep better if I go see the chiropractor. I haven't been in weeks, so I'm sure my neck is all jammed up, along with the tweaky spots in my mid and lower back. Ahhhh.... thirty-two. It isn't old, but already the body has a slightly less "hey-I-can-keep-myself-together-and-functioning" feel.

In other thoughts this sleepless night, I'm really so thankful I went on assignment last summer. It's Christmas card writing time (now that most of my holiday responsibilities have been filled), and I'm looking forward to expressing my love and thanks to those people from WFR Session 2 A-Team who've made such a wonderful and lasting impression on my life and heart. Who would have known that such a difficult experience could create such soul-healing? Oh -- Jesus knew. :-)

I'm also thankful for my local Young Life team. We had 35 kids at our YL Christmas party tonight and used every last extra present I had purchased "just in case". Kids that I have known for years are showing up because other people invite them. Last night, Miguel (who comes to buy water from me almost every day) came for the first time. He left after the talk but before the gingerbread house decorating extravaganza because he has a wrestling match tomorrow, and as he left he said, "This was legit, Miss. I'm not gonna lie. The other stuff was fun but I really like when you talked about God and stuff." Sweet.

And now I shall attempt to go to Bed-forshire. May my teeth be unground, my back unkinked, and my dreams unaffected by the amount of sugar consumed at the party.

Huh.... lots of sugar.... Wait a minute.....

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Gobble (and Boo and Ho Ho Ho)

The holidays? Really? The flurry of the fall hustled me through October and November, and now the holidays are here! I suppose I should stem my incredulity and just accept the fact that times really does seem to go faster every year.

The fall has been an interesting one, emotionally challenging in ways I didn't expect. Once I got my feet under me at school and remembered that I love teaching honors kids, I began to feel antsy. My antsiness manifested in researching vacations I probably won't take, looking at houses I probably won't buy, researching graduate programs that I probably won't attend, and looking for jobs in cities to which I probably won't move. I remember doing this quite a bit when I was first teaching in Sunnyside, and back then it was a manifestation of the "I don't want to do this forever" thought.

The challenge for me this time around is that the "this" that I don't want to do forever is hard articulate. "What don't you want to do forever?" I asked myself.

Teach? No, no problem there. If anything, I enjoy it more now than I have before. Sure, I'd like to get an MA in Literature so I can try my hand at teaching collegiately sometime, but I'm not chafing underneath the saddle of public education. I love my kids, my classes (even the ones that are dumber than a box of rocks), my school.

Live in Yakima? Nope -- I love living close to to my family. Wyatt actually said to me, "Our house is your house, Marah, especially during the holidays. You come over whenever. We love you." And I know my parents feel the same way. Do I wish for more cultural stuff to do here, sure, but Seattle/Portland/Spokane are not that far away. I got to see Harry Connick Junior in concert this fall and almost had a kitten about it. Fantastic!!!

Franklin Hill? They are my faith family. I love us, am planted there, am committed to staying. I have weathered the funky season of leaving ministry leadership and am confident that there are plenty of ways to stay connected, even should my involvement morph and change some more.

Young Life? Sometimes I feel that this may be the rub, the aspect of my life that gives me an emotional wedgie, but I haven't figured out if that's just spiritual attack or a real mis-fit of ministry to life. I get to tell the kids I love from school about Jesus in a way that doesn't break my contract, and for that I am so thankful. The challenge of this year in ministry is that I feel alone in it. I have four 19-year-old leaders who work with me, so that is another layer of strength and challenge. They have so much energy and creativity, so that is glorious; they are 19, though, so I get to lead them through their 19-year-old-ness. But to stop leading at YL? I'm not sure. At times I feel like I fell ass-backwards into it to begin with, but that feeling always begs the question of whether or not I believe in God's sovereignty. The aspects of YL that I feel fit best are the camp stuff in the summer, cabin leading and assignment team. Being a work crew boss was the hardest thing I've done in quite some time, but it still was just perfect. Huh.....

At any rate, all of these thoughts reached a critical point a couple weeks ago, causing quite a bit of emotional funk. I just felt oppressed by the "nothing will ever change" thought. Or maybe the thought of "my life will never change unless I make it change but the changes I want are not ones I'm willing to force." One Sunday morning in particular, I spent the pre-church time in a haze of questioning what I'm to do with this season of my life. Is this just a stepping stone to something else? I have no idea what that something else would be; I feel like Katherine in Anne of Avonlea: "Bend in the road? There's no bend in my road. I can see it stretching straight out towards the skyline."

Then I went to church. Message: the road to wholeness starts with gratitude.

This isn't spiritual rocket science, but so help me if that didn't turn me around a corner I didn't know I was at. I don't need to "figure out" the next step, what comes after "this". I can, quite fantastically, be thankful for the extra time in my schedule, the kids in my classes, the leaders in Young Life. As much as I play with ideas of doing something else, I also know -- when I'm quiet before Jesus -- it's not time for anything else.

And when I look at the past few months, they are good months. How many people can just pick up at fly across the nation to spend a weekend with a college roommate? I got to see Boston (in the fall, no less) and spend a fantastic few days with my wonderful Jayme. I spent Halloween hiking by Walden pond, wandering around the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, exploring Louise May Alcott's house, and camping in tent in Jayme's backyard. Seriously? How cool was that.

I have space in my life -- margin -- so that when stuff hits the fan, I have time to process it and deal with it and help others process it and deal with it. And there are good things on the horizon; in particular, I've been asked to be a Head Leader at YL camp next summer. As much as I loved being a work crew boss, I think the HL job may be an even better fit. Plus it's planned to be during Session One, so I'll still have six weeks of summer vacation after I get back from assignment.

All of that to say, there is so much for which to be thankful. Thank you, Father. Thanks for Davis, and Young Life, and Franklin Hill, and Bennett, Erin, Jaelynn, and Tyler, and my family, and my Hobbit House. Thanks for really good friends who drink coffee with me, watch movies with me, and text me about the latest greatest tv show episodes that I must see. Thanks for healing the piece of me that was freaking out last year about spending another holiday season "still single." Thanks for Christmas, twinkle lights, and coming for us.

You deserve so much more than thanks, so in addition to that, You can have it all.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

You've Got Mail & The Tices

I lead a small life.... well, valuable but small....

So says Meg Ryan in one of my favorite movies, You've Got Mail. My sweet Jayme and I used to watch that thing OVER and OVER and OVER again in our Shupe and Tuckey rooms. So sweet and quotable, and that particular line came to mind just moments ago as I finished reading the newsletter from Jeremy and Mindie Tice. They are missionaries in West Africa, and because of God's movement and their service, people in the jungles of Guinea have heard the truth of Christ and opened their lives to His Light.

It makes me cry. They are so courageous and beautiful and faithful. Their boys look like their dad, one of my closest friends in college. I'm so proud of them. I can only imagine the challenges of their daily lives. It makes me put my life into its proper perspective.

And at the same time, I feel small... petty.... introverted.... I don't have a great marriage, or two beautiful boys, or anything like that. It would be easy to succumb to the "what does this little life of mine mean anyway?"

On its own? Nothing.

On the foundation of Christ? Everything.

I guess this is faith, right? A piece of it, anyway. I choose to believe that these hours and cups of coffee and Club talks and worship songs and hard conversations and listening and following will amount to something important in God's kingdom. That is my prayer.

Jeremy & Mindie -- love you both.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Good enough...

This morning, I read a little blurb about the phoenix -- a mythological bird (that did exist in literature before Harry Potter) that burned up every 500 years only to be reborn from the ashes to live again -- and I was reminded of God's very clear Word to me during Young Life Assignment. (There is so much to share about Assignment, but I only have a few minutes before I pack up the car and head to the beach with the family, so I'll just get this one posted and then I'll do more later.)

Background: From July 9 to August 2, I volunteered as a Work Crew Boss at Young Life's Washington Family Ranch. Specifically, I was teamed with a wonderful, talented, funny man from Baker City -- Mike Long, you rock my socks OFF -- to supervise the 33 high school volunteers in the Dining Hall. I do not know the specific challenges faced by the bosses in the other area; I'm sure that the Outdoor, Housekeeping, Kitchen, and Pit Crews each had their own challenges. I, however, can speak directly about the challenges of preparing for, serving, and cleaning up after 700 campers 3 times a day. Yowsers.

One of the challenges is maintaining the attention to detail necessary to make the Dining Hall look like somebody cares. There is a VERY specific way for each table to be set so that the entire hall is uniform, and while some of our crew members did attend to these details, many of us just wanted to finish the job. Not necessarily finish it well, but just get DONE so we could sit down. That's how I felt most of the time, but one of my jobs (and Mike's, and he was better at it than I was) was to see the details and get the kids to see the details and fix the missed details. And since the details are a huge element of the job itself, our challenge became how to help the kids see that they were not done with the job until it was done and done correctly.

Keep that tucked away as I explain another part of my particular Assignment experience: Life Signs. Life Signs is a 3-part presentation at camp when 5 different staff people share stories of their big issues and how Christ has dealt with those issues. Just before heading to Assignment, I had several people tell me that doing Life Signs and Dining Hall Work Crew Boss was very challenging. I was prepared to get out of doing Life Signs because I don’t want to over-extend myself while I give away my summer vacation. In fact, slowing down and not doing too much was (and is) another issue on which God has been working with me in the past months. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was supposed to do it, even though it would be hard. I took it to Jesus in prayer, and the feeling was still there. So I moved forward with it.

I was prepared to talk about feeling like I needed to perform for acceptance, but when I spoke with Brooke (the person who’s coordinating all of the participants) she told me that two other people are wanting to talk about that. She challenged me to share about not feeling beautiful or attractive, feeling like I’m not worth noticing and that there’s something intrinsically wrong with me, and feeling that if somebody really knew the real me (and the real family stuff I bring with me) they'd head for the hills.

Let me just say that I'm glad I had serious confirmation that Jesus was leading me into this because it was SO MUCH HARDER than what I had anticipated. As I attempted to tap into the "scenes" from my adolescent and collegiate years that contained those feelings, I hit a vein of emotion that I didn't know was still there. We presented Life Signs twice (once at each of the two high school camps) and the first time was unexpectedly raw, not during the presentation itself, but during rehearsal. I found myself crying as I acted out being dumped in the ninth grade, aching as I reenacted breaking my high school best friend's heart, and cowering with self-condemnation after a conversation in college about how I and my family were too much to handle. But at the end of the presentation, I got to talk with and pray with several girls who had been struggling with the very same things.

And then came Week 2. As we went into the first day of the presentation, I felt like I had a better grasp on myself and also felt like I wanted to mention a bit more of how I felt ugly. So in those two "snapshots, I veered a little more towards my feelings of being fat and ugly and that's why guys didn't stick. The LS coordinator (brooke) challenged me in that space because it was sounding like her story. While her story (not feeling beautiful) and my story are similar, I didn't really intend to get diverted. Then she asked why I thought that happened, and the emotions just started to overflow. I realized I didn't want to walk through those wounds again. I just did it last week, and I didn't want to say it all again; more than that, I didn't want to feel it all again.

So I took some time right then ti have a good cry and some journaling with Jesus. I went through and wrote down the feelings that were so raw, the lies that were fueling those, and the Truth to combat the lies. Having somewhat recomposed myself, I went back to work in the Dining Hall where Mike had been working all morning while I did Life Signs. I came back just in time for devotions, which normally we did out of the whole camp study on Luke. On this particular day, though, Mike went off the schedule and shared about the idea of a job being "good enough" even though it's not done, being specifically applicable to the kids finishing the jobs and finishing them right. But he gave the example of Jesus in the garden. He posed this question: What if Jesus had said, "the work I've done is good enough. I don't need to finish this by going to the cross. I don't want to go; this is good enough. What if He had said that?"

And BAM that was straight to my heart. I knew (and know) that God called me to do Life Signs and to walk through these experiences and emotions again, but I seriously didn't want to, so much so that I was diverting from those wounds without realizing it. But Brooke challenged me on that point, and I saw what I was doing: avoiding the work God had asked me to do, saying "I shared this once, and that was good enough." But God was saying, "Finish the work I've given you to do." So, as Mike was sharing, I prayed the same prayer Jesus prayed: But not my will, but Yours be done.

Then I thought, if Jesus had said no to the Cross, he would have missed out on the resurrection.

Resurrection. New Life. Is that not the hope to which we cling when we are experiencing death? Whether physical, emotional, spiritual or whatever kind of -al, as a Christ-follower, I can have the same hope and therefore the same courage to face and walk through any death God may ask of me.

In all honesty, I don't know what that resurrection is going to look like. I've been home for almost two weeks and feel like the crap that was dug up by Life Signs is still floating on the top of my soul. Yucky soul poop water. But I do know that Jesus did not ask me to do this so that I could just stuff those lies back down into my heart. He has led me here, He has asked me to die to my compulsion to hide and ignore these cancerous lies, and He is the Resurrection.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Love & War

This morning, I got to witness something so sweet and simple and beautiful and profound. A bunch of broken people got together because of Jesus, sang together, prayed together, laughed together, and offered a sweet fragrance up to God. All because of Jesus. This is church.

And then, without any pomp and very little ceremony, two of our siblings-in-Christ stood up and vowed to live as husband and wife as long as they both shall live. As I sat there and witnessed this union -- Casey in his suit and stately bald head and Kristine in a simple flowing white dress -- I didn't expect it to move me like it did. After all, there were no flowers, no bridesmaids, no Wagner or Canon in D. Just Cesar in his Jesus/Band-Aid t-shirt and Lisa on the piano accompanying Kris as she sang a song based on the book of Ruth: Where you go, I shall go. Your God shall be my God. Your people shall be my people.

And there I sat, crying. It really is beautiful and courageous -- this whole marriage thing. The longer I'm alive, the more aware I become of how ugly and treacherous life can be when lived outside of God's love, purpose, protection, and provision. And that is the heart-rending truth of so many marriages -- they are attempted outside of God's purpose, protection, and provision, and we broken people break each other.

Not that Christians automatically get it right -- the divorce rate is the same inside of and outside of the church, is it not? But Jesus did promise us life and hope in every circumstance. And while I do not know the ins and outs of marriage, I just read a great book on this very subject by John & Stasi Eldredge: Love & War.

Now, I'll be honest, the last thing I wanted to read during this season was a book on marriage. Sometimes I get tired of having to put on the "what can I glean from this even though it's not for me" filter. But I've always LOVED books from these two fine authors -- Wild at Heart, Captivating, The Sacred Romance -- so I decided to give it a chance, and this book did not disappoint. Authentic, funny, personal, and pointed, the book covers everything from the Big Picture of God's design for marriage and Satan's attack thereon to the more practical matters of how to invite Jesus into the daily reality of marriage.

What was even better, though, was that God spoke to my reality TODAY through their writing. I was reminded of how easy it is to develop of way of approaching life that is based on my own strengths and abilities and thereby create barriers between myself and the true Life Jesus offers. I was reminded of the glorious reality that God speaks to His kids, and His kids know His voice, and He has truth to heal the deep wounds that cause all my funky yuck.

My heart hasn't felt this peace-filled in quite some time, which is particularly arresting because I didn't realize how anxious I was about the pending changes this summer will bring. But Jesus knew, and He came for me. In so many ways, He comes for me.

Be encouraged, my friends. He always comes for us.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

got nothing

I've got nothing by way of a pithy title for this blog. But I'm gonna give myself some grace on that. My body woke up at 5:45, even though I was up late the last two nights. Silly body. Thursday night was a 1am-er because my sweet Lyndsey was here on choir tour. We sat in the dark and talked and talked and talked; then we ate Blueberry Frosted Mini-Wheats and then talked and talked and talked. Then I was up late last night because I hosted a relatively impromptu movie night with the Young Lifers. They said, "Hey! can we come over on Friday and watch a movie?" Sure. I made them treats, got pizza, and let them have a pillow fight in my living room.

What's amusing me this morning is the recovery time I'm needing. I love Lyndz and I love my YL kids, and WOW do I feel like I need to do some serious recharging today. It wasn't just those two events that wiped me. On Wednesday, one of my favorite juniors (he's in my 6th period class) stayed a bit after class to tell me that he has a court date, might be sent to juvi, and get a felony put on his record. I didn't ask for a ton of details because, as I sat there, I got all choked up. This kid isn't one of those rough, hard, cynical boys; deep down, he's a poet, an artist, and smart as a whip.... a whip that has grown up in abject poverty with an alcoholic/absent father. I'm glad this kid's best bud stuck around in class that day to work on vocab and that earlier this year they had both been to Young Life, because I felt The Nudge, took his hand, and started praying. I prayed for favor with judges, comfort and courage in the middle of this, but most of all, I prayed against the lie that this is a death sentence for this kid's hopes and dreams. I prayed that God would take this and make it into something powerful and good. By the end, we were both crying.

Two days later, I'm still wiped from it. I know... the lack of sleep probably hasn't helped. :-)

But as I've been thinking about this week -- praying with this kid that I love, listening to and loving Lyndsey, the kids in my hobbit house on a Friday night -- I was reminded of how Jesus loved. He entered our world, He knew who He was and what God had called him to do, and He hung in the tension between the two. As His follower, I've been asked to do the same. To enter somebody else's word -- really listen and empathize and ask questions; To know who I am in Christ and what He has asked of me -- draw boundaries so I'm not trying to be things I'm not (I'm not so good at this, but I'm working on it); To hang in the tension -- be misunderstood or disappoint those who think I should do more or less than what I'm doing, not run away from relationships that are hard, not self-medicate to ease the pain of these realities. I guess, in some minuscule way, I'm feeling the side-effects of loving how Jesus loved.

And in the middle of this week, the Bethel College Choir came to town. It would've been a great event for any person, but for me, it was exquisite. The glorious mixture of incredible music, overwhelming Truth, and sweet sweet memories made those concerts float over and cover my soul like a cosmic bear hug. There's something about Beauty that simply brings peace and rest. For me, this Beauty also brought great encouragement -- the John Rutter song I posted last has such stirring images...

The journey may be long: no end in sight;
There may be hills to climb, or giants to fight:
But if you’ll take my hand, we’ll walk together t’ward the land of freedom.

Yeah - I'm feeling that. How glad I am for the people God has brought into my life who take my hand and help me up the hill, who pick up the sword when I am cowering behind my shield. The hills are steep and the giants tall, but not unclimbable, not undefeatable. And just when my soul is all encouraged and ready to engage, the song goes on....

I touch a distant hand and feel its glow,
the Hand I hoped was there: at last I know.

Oh my soul.... I'm aching for that day right now. Sometimes I skip merrily along through my life, but after this week, I just want Jesus to be here... really be here.... or me be there.... sometimes the ache is pretty strong, you know? I want my kids to have what they need. I want my sweet cousin to have her hopes fulfilled. I want my Young Lifers to get Jesus. And when those realities seem so far away, I long for Home.

Oh the paradoxical experience of being human! :-) All of these emotions and perspectives and whatnot! I'm not even sure what to do with it all.

So I just say.... Thanks God. Thanks for the privilege and pain of being Your light and love at Davis. Thanks for friends and family and the glory of having those two things be embodied in the same people. And thanks for hope that doesn't disappoint, not because life is perfect, but because You are.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Choir Concert... post 1

As indicated by the title, I intend to share more about yesterday's Bethel concerts. But for now, here's a link to some other group singing my favorite new song:

Distant Land by John Rutter.

I see a distant land: it shines so clear.
Sometimes it seems so far, sometimes so near.
Come, join together, take the dusty road;
Help one another: share the heavy load.

The journey may be long: no end in sight;
There may be hills to climb, or giants to fight:
But if you’ll take my hand, we’ll walk together
t’ward the land of freedom.

I hear the distant song: it fills the air.
I hear it, deep and strong, rise up in prayer:
O Lord, we are many; help us to be one.
Heal our divisions: Let thy will be done.

I know the time will come when war must cease:
A time of truth and love, a time of peace.
The people cry, ‘How long till all the world can
join the song of freedom.’

I touch a distant hand and feel its glow,
the hand I hoped was there: at last I know.
Swords into ploughshares: can it all come true?
Friends out of strangers: start with me and you.

I see another time, another place
where we can all be one, one human race.
The walls will melt away,
we’ll come together on the day of freedom.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Never thought of it that way....

My cousin Nathaniel got married yesterday. Funny.... I remember when he was born. I remember calling him Bug (you know... like "Nat" but funnier). I remember him climbing up the stairs at my grandparents' house/antique store calling for my brother: "Bon COOOOOO la!" And now he's married.... like, with a wife and everything.

Facebook is an interesting thing. It opens windows into people's lives that would normally be closed not by volition but by time and distance. I was just thinking today of how many of my former students have gotten married in the last year or so, and the only reason I know this is because of Facebook. While I do not begrudge them their marital bliss, it stings a bit.

I was journaling this morning about this and the other "issues" in my life (i.e. being in Weight Watchers for a year and never once having a week when I actually stay within my allotted points. What the frosting?) and I felt like God said, "Marah, Marah. You are worried about many things, but only one thing is necessary."

So I stopped, and just sat with Jesus for a while. The ouchie of the "everybody else is getting married" thought surfaced and I had a very clear picture of me and Jesus standing beside a rollercoaster. Now, I stinking LOVE rollercoasters and would love the chance to go on some more great ones. But in that picture, all my newly married friends were on the rollercoaster and I was standing there watching them with Jesus. And He didn't say "it's not your turn" or anything like that. The feeling was more like, Marah, I'm not making you wait in some line of indeterminable length for this 'ride' that you want to go on but you haven't met the growth requirement. It isn't like that at all -- that's just the wrong metaphor. And when you allow yourself to think about marriage that way, it'll lead to jealousy and discontentment.

Holy Reframe, Batman. It's the oldest lie in the book -- God is holding out on you. Better get for yourself because you can't trust Him.

(Insert German accent here) LIES! ALL LIES!!!

Truth: I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you, and not to harm you. Plans to give you HOPE and a future.

Truth: My God shall supply all my needs according to His riches and glory.

Truth: No good thing will God withhold from those who do what is right...... oh, let's get the whole thing in here:

Psalm 84:10-12 (New Living Translation)

10 A single day in your courts
is better than a thousand anywhere else!
I would rather be a gatekeeper in the house of my God
than live the good life in the homes of the wicked.
11 For the Lord God is our sun and our shield.
He gives us grace and glory.
The Lord will withhold no good thing
from those who do what is right.
12 O Lord of Heaven’s Armies,
what joy for those who trust in you.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Song on repeat

I love mornings. The cool breath of air, the colors painted in the East, the lyrical birds in the hedges. And even when the evening before contained frustration, emotional funkiness, and too many french fries, the new day brings new mercies, new perspective, new chances.

This I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: because of the Lord's great love, we are not consumed. His mercies are new every morning. Great is thy faithfulness.

I have no idea if that's how the Bible verse goes, but I have a movie in my head starring my mother, and those are her lines. How many times over the past 31 (almost 32?!?!?) years have I watched that film, both live and in my mind? Thank you, Father, for parents who love you. And thank you for music that stirs the soul, encourages the heart, and strengthens the will to follow.

He's Always Been Faithful
By Sara Groves

Morning by morning I wake up to find
The power and comfort of God's hand in mine.
Season by season I watch him amazed,
In awe of the mystery of his perfect ways

All I have need of his hand will provide.
He's always been faithful to me

I can't remember a trial or a pain
He did not recycle to bring me gain.
I can't remember one single regret
In serving God only and trusting his hand

All I have need of his hand will provide.
He's always been faithful to me.

This is my anthem, this is my song,
The theme of the stories I've heard for so long.
God has been faithful; He will be again.
His loving compassion, it knows no end.

All I have need of his hand will provide.
He's always been faithful to me.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

End of March

I have discovered Mobile Blogging. Sweet! So as my American Lit students are doing a websearch on the Jazz Age (Capone, Prohibition, the Black Sox Scandal), I can blog! Nice.

March has... well, marched steadily on. The beginning of the month was crazy busy but wonderful. As things slowed down a bit externally, internal tensions began to rise. I think these tensions really started with the Franklin Hill church-wide focus on Love & Respect, a marriage DVD teaching that can also be applied to any male-female relationship. During that study, I realized some of the things I sometimes really miss by not having a husband. Part of the teaching explains the strengths/needs of men, and I realized that these are the very things I could get from my dad, if my relationship with him were healthier. Specifically, I saw in me the desire for a man to provide protection, leading, and counsel. There have been times in the past few years I've allowed my dad to provide those things for me, but more often than not, I try to figure it out on my own. I'm thankful for Jesus' ability to provide that directly and for my God-fearing male friends who offer that to me in friendship, but I still want the husband, you know?

Then good ol' Franklin Hill started a new series: Lost & Found. This is based on the ideas in The Emotionally Healthy Church, a stinking AWESOME book about how spiritual maturity cannot be experienced apart from emotional health. One of the challenges in the book is to take a solid, honest look at your family of origin and your extended family to see what relational patterns exist and ask how those are influencing your present. Not if they are influencing your present, but how.

This isn't necessarily a new thought for me. During different seasons of my life, I've pondered how my mom's food/eating issues have repeated in my life, how my father's bi-polar created an absent-dad-syndrome that influenced my desire to draw attention from the men around me, how my sibling relationships and dynamics have made me a peace-maker (and sometimes a conflict avoider).

So this last weekend, I had an epiphany. I realized that, while I really want a healthy equal-yoked marriage, I have a model for how to be the wife in an unequal marriage. I'm not trying to belittle my parents' relationship, but rather observe that, because of my dad's illness, my mom was often in the lead at home and at church. I have a curriculum, if you will, for how to be the wife to an ill husband. And y'all know I thrive in curriculum. But figure something out that's brand new? Freakin' SCARY!!!

Holy crap. There are other layers and implications to this epiphany for sure, but right now, I'm just trying to settle into this insight and hear from Jesus about what to do with it. The inward journey, I'm finding, can be just as scary as any new external venture. Hurray for the safety net of God's UNCONDITIONAL love and acceptance. He knows all this stuff and still loves and accepts me. I don't have to pretend these patterns aren't there. And I don't have to figure out what it is going to mean. Whew.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The middle of things....

February 16 -- just past the middle of the month. February was supposed to be the month that slapped me about the head and shoulders -- so many things on the To Do list and only so much Marah to go around. Then, last week, I found out that my anticipated trip to Collingwood, Ontario for the only Link Crew Conference I could work this year was to be cancelled. After I traversed the subsequent disappointment, I found myself quite thankful not to have to get on a plane this past Sunday. Do I miss my friends? Yes. I knoweth not when I shall see this particular group of friends again. But it is amusing to me how Jesus takes care of me sometimes. When I got the e-mail asking about being a coach this year, I heard fairly clearly from the Lord, not that I couldn't go, but that I wouldn't have the energy to go. So I declined the position for the year, but made the caveat that I could go to the Canada conference because it was over my mid-winter break. It wasn't a point of disobedience -- I don't think :-/ -- but God has once again saved me from myself. While the friend time and paycheck would have been great, I would have come back EXHAUSTED, and as anybody who knows me knows, tired Marah is no fun.

At any rate, all that to say, I'm sitting in Lisa Jean's house on this very quiet Tuesday morning so thankful for the rest and love and productivity of the past few days. Friday was V-day at Davis. I'm so glad I'm not a student anymore. I don't remember Valentine's Day being a big deal when I was at WA-HI, but now each year the courtyard is a sea of red and pink mylar and the whole place smells like small mailmen. (tee hee) I had a moment with Jesus that morning when I decided to embrace the love He had provided for me instead of focusing on the lack of boyfriend/husband romantic love. So I wore pink, did my hair all sassy, and went to school smiling.

What happened in fourth period was unexpected. One of my sweetest girls (and I think she's Catholic) asked me point blank if I liked Valentine's Day. A few other kids echoed her question, so I took advantage of a relatively captive audience. I put a 3x5 card up on the document camera with the words God, Family, Friends and Romance written on the four corners. I told them I don't have a problem with the day itself, but I don't like what our culture has done. "It has taken these loves, and" I zoomed in on the word Romance, "it paints the picture that if I don't have some guy buying me flowers today, then I don't have love. I think that's bullshit. That's right. I said 'bullshit.'" I went on to tie it to Romeo and Juliet, which we have just finished reading in class. I reminded them that these two kids dove into what they were doing because that is what the culture told them real love was. Romeo thought real love was poetic and passionate, whereas Juliet thought real love was getting married STAT. They couldn't see the other love in their lives, and their warped perspective motivated them to do drastic things. I reminded them that we can choose our perspective, choose to be aware of our culture's messages, and stand on the Truth.

It was good for me to articulate all of that; I want to believe it encouraged some of my sweet girls who are lovely but not being pursued right now. Does it kinda sting sometimes? Sure. But is it the be-all-end-all? Nope.

All of that was just Friday. The weekend has continued to be restful and productive. I got a draft of my National Boards written, spent some great time with the family watching the Olympics, found some more stuff for Lisa's wedding, and cheered for our Pirates as they defeated Ike in the District Tournament. They play Richland tonight, and I'm to sing the National Anthem for that game. :-)

So I'm thankful for the extra margin that God saw fit to give back to me. Ahhhh.... room to breathe.... blessedness....

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Brief update

No deep thoughts, pithy comments, or profound insights this morning. Just want to thank Jesus for His provision.

1) I've got my video for National Boards, and in a demonstration of our Lord's sense of humor and irony, the BEST video came from my MOST challenging class. They are often rowdy, sugared up, off-task, and spastic. But Monday, they were brilliant. I'm actually looking forward to writing the 11 page analysis b/c there is so much to say about this group, this lesson, this challenge.

2) The YL conference was fantastic. I loved sharing it with my friends from Franklin Hill -- Cesar, Susie, Sid and Debbie -- and from my area -- Kathy, Brandon, Ken, Joyce, Doug. And I made some new friends -- Katie and Sarah and Tracy. AND -- get this -- two of my former students and a former camper from WAY back in my Missionary Church days are now Young Life leaders in Sunnyside. Sweet sassy.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

3 Chords and Jesus

Tonight, for the first time ever, I successfully played chords on a guitar! The G I got on my own. I shouted my exultation through the vent, and the Eggies responded with much cheering. Then Jonathan came downstairs and showed me how to play a C chord and a D chord! And an E minor, but I didn't take to that one very well.

This might seem insignificant, but as my last blog so fervently ranted, there is quite a bit going on over the next few weeks. There are things that need to get done but that I can't make happen any faster; I've also realized in the last day or two that the vague discontent I've been bemoaning is actually anxiety. I'm not sure how things are going to play out over the next few weeks, and while I want to hope for the best, I also don't want to be disappointed. I want to believe that 4.5 hours of video recording over the next two days will result in 15 minutes of quality video for my National Boards. But past sessions didn't accomplish this, so I'm going in a little jaded. I want to believe that the Young Life conference this weekend will be inspiring and edifying; I have no reason to think it WON'T be, but I don't want to go in expecting Gandalf's fireworks and end up with those little pop-its that are only fun when you put them under the toilet seat and wait for somebody to go in and sit down. I want to hope that going on Young Life Assignment will actually be a quality investment of my time and talent and treasure, but I'm afraid I'll spend the entire month missing my little people and distracted by the cute guys who love Jesus and aren't interested in me. (There. I said it. Now, let me earnestly insist that I'm NOT going on assignment to find a husband, but so help me if THAT isn't the button the Enemy pushes to distract and discourage me. Rat bastard.)

But tonight, with my three chords that could have passed for music (5th grade band music, but music nonetheless), I was reminded that good things come all the time. Whether through the application of my own choice or the open windows of Heaven, there IS good stuff in this season of "I'm not sure" if I have the eyes to see it. Like the orange lilies one of my Young Lifers brought me last Monday that have been blooming and wilting all week -- each blossom quite independent of the others -- there are blessings and challenges and losses, all in their seasons. May I have the grace to accept the beauty of today, deal with the challenges of today, recognize the losses of today, and do all of that with hope.

And, as my dear Elisa reminded me, hope does not disappoint.

And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. Romans 5:2-5

Friday, January 29, 2010

1 Month Down

January. ¿A donde vas? The paradox of time seems so much more real to me this year. Each of the past few weeks has seemed both to crawl and sprint. February will probably follow suit, which is great because then spring will arrive and I won't have to cajole myself to find restorative beauty around me. The color grey serves its purpose, and I like it as a background for a good hoodie sweatshirt, but when it is the backdrop of almost every day's weather, it gets to me.

Another thing I've noticed about myself is my propensity to make lists and calendars when I'm feeling overwhelmed and crunched. In the past two weeks, I think I've made six or seven of them. In fact, I'm compelled to make another one right here on this very blog. I won't.... maybe. But I will say that, far from being depressed, February's schedule looks a bit manic: there is one weekend that wasn't scheduled "out", and I decided to host a Games Night that Friday.

Even as I write, though, I am reminded of a week this fall that, at its start, caused me to say "holy crap! How will this week ever work out?" That very mindset created stress that did not need to be there, thereby making what could have been a great week seem tense. Let me NOT do that for the WHOLE of February!!!! Is the month full and busy? Yes. Is it too much? Well, that has yet to be seen.

And I can't quite keep myself from doing this.......

Regular life: sit and listen and chat with God, plan and prep for English 9 and American Literature, plan and prep for weekly Young Life Club on Mondays, attend Worship Team practice and have morning coffee with Debbie on Wednesdays, have weekly friend times with Rachel/Susie/Lisa, hit the YMCA 4-5 times, attend Weight Watchers on Saturday and Franklin Hill on Sunday

In addition to my regular life the next five weeks:
This weekend: house sit
Feb Week 1: video tape for National Boards (AGAIN!!!!), Love & Respect Small Group starts
Feb weekend 1: Young Life Regional Conference (Fri-Sun)
Feb Week 2: National Board Meeting (at which I will show the video from Week 1 if it ends up capturing what I need to capture)
Feb Weekend 2/Week 3: Ontario Link Crew Conference (Sun-Wed)
Feb Weekend 3/Week 4: Regular Life
March Week 1: Assignment Team Training
March Weekend 1: Lisa's wedding

Okay -- so here's the thing. I love my life -- my regular routine. I have the margin I need to do it well. I can plan for Young Life, exercise regularly, get enough sleep, make good food choices. But when I squeeze out the margin by packing out the weekends and adding extra things during the week, YL becomes a stress, I skip my workouts, stay up late reading, eat bowls of cereal and ice cream ad nauseum.

But the kicker is, I seem to do this in cycles: once or twice a year, I create a schedule like this for myself. Like a dog returning to his vomit, so a fool returns to her folly. The challenge for me is that this is all GOOD stuff. I could back out of some of it, but I don't really want to. I want to get my Nat Boards, attend the YL conference and the Link Crew conference, be in Lisa's wedding, all that jazz.

Okay -- I'm not getting anywhere with all of this reflection on my life. I have nothing pithy or insightful to say about it. I'm glad it's Friday. I'm glad I have friends who GET that I do this every now and then and will let me spew my emotions at them. I'm glad for a job I love and that this too shall pass.

OH! But I don't want it to merely "pass". I want to be IN IT -- to be real and present and aware and a blessing to those I encounter, which I find difficult to be when my head is all wrapped up in how much I have to do.

So, here is my insight.... Thanks, Jesus, for songs that remind me of my heart's cry:

Jesus, be the center
Be my source be my light, Jesus
Jesus, be the center
Be my song, Jesus

Be the fire in my heart
Be the wind in my sails
Be the reason that I live
Jesus Jesus

Jesus, be my vision

Be my help
Be my guide Jesus

Monday, January 18, 2010

Resolutions? We don't need no resolutions...

The new year has been a flurry!!! Good glory -- I can't believe January is half-way over. I meant to sit down and reflect upon 2009 before heading back to work, but (obviously) that didn't happen. I was inspired to do it when I ran across a file during my yearly computer cleanse: 2009 Goals. I'm not a big resolution maker; unmet goals offer a chance to try again, while unkept resolutions smack of a deeper character flaw. Me no likey that conotation.

So, I set goals instead, and they were to do the following:

1) Live in food/weight/body image FREEDOM. Not apathy or licentiousness – freedom. That will mean weight loss, but because of obedience and grace.
a. Eat when I’m hungry.
b. Exercise responsibly.

Reflection: Well, that didn't start out to well as the first half of the year included weight gain. But I joined Weight Watchers at the start of the summer, have kept up my activity level (thank you, YMCA), and have submitted myself to real accountability with Susie. Not the commiserating over bad food choices, but the gut honest this is what I ate and WHY. Dude -- so helpful. 2009 saw a 15 pound drop. Sweet.

2) Half marathon... if the foot holds up.

Reflection: The foot didn't hold up. I got up to 4 miles at one point but then the metatarsal started to ache. I may have used up all my running in 2006.

3) Pay off Car and ½ of Grad School

Reflection: Did it! BAM!!! Thank you, Dave Ramsey and the debt snowball plan!

4) 5 dates (real dates – not just eating dinner with friends)

Reflection: This one happened too. I made it because I was tired of having NO dating life of which to speak. This goal changed that, created the title of my blog (thanks to my small group that started using it as code for my romantic life) and is tied with goal 1 for producing the most angst, frustration, and learning.

When I found my 2009 goals, I thought "BRILLIANT! 3 out of 4 ain't bad! Let's set some 2010 goals!" And, ladies and gentlemen, here they are!

1) Live in food/weight/body image FREEDOM. Not apathy or licentiousness – freedom. That will mean weight loss, but because of obedience and grace. Utilize WW and Susie!
2) Successfully complete Take One by March 31
3) Pay off Grad School by September 1 and part of BC loan
4) Learn to play the guitar (well enough to lead music at YL, maybe even church!)

And the progress thus far is encouraging. I've got a video done for Take One, and I've purchased a beginner guitar and put new strings on it (thank you, Cesar!) The date goal is non-existent this year because I want to be done trying. If somebody wants to set me up, okay. If somebody asks me out, okay. But I understand now how great it feels to be pursued, and that's a feeling that's worth the wait. There are a few places in my life where the rubber meets the road in terms of my faith, and this is the one that recurs most often and with the most intensity.

So, then, let me bring to the forefront the biggest "goal" for the year and for life: to know Jesus more fully, to follow Him more closely, and to listen more intently. Being a physically healthy, Nationally Board certified, debt-free, guitar playing gal won't mean jack squat without His Presence in it all.