a Dubai kind of grateful

October 28, 2009

IMG00358i couldn’t be more excited about heading to Dubai today. Feel free to have passport envy…

I’m grateful for school and education and the technology of planes that enables us to explore the world!

I’m grateful that I get to be a part of a community where 120 different personalities, cultures, minds, and hearts engage each other.

I’m thankful for those little plane pillows – and sleeping pills!

I’m grateful for home; that life here continues while I’m not in it and that I live in a place with people that I can celebrate coming back to.

I’m grateful that I get to write a new story and be part of a greater one being written.

I’m grateful for coffee…and to-do lists.

I’m thankful that I’m healthy enough, physically spiritually emotionally and mentally to pursue knowledge and adventure.

I’m grateful for mexican food and prayers in my car after it with a forever friend.

I’m grateful for Psalm 139 that says “suppose…i flew to the other side of the ocean. even there Your hand will guide me, Your strong arm will protect me…”  My hope, no matter my location on the globe, is in Jesus Christ. I am more in love with God than I have ever been.

God, show me what You see. Teach me what You know. Enable me to love how You love. be present. be real. be Savior.

decide already

October 26, 2009

IMG00350There is a strip mall near my house.  Well, it’s Florida, so there are a lot of them.  But this one in particular is apparently getting repainted.  I know that, because for the last few months there have been color swatches randomly and kind of awkwardly drawn on it.  A couple of the colors seem to be the front-runners since they have larger blocks in other areas – but in all, it is just looks like a hodgepodge of taupe and indecision.

I’ve watched the evolution of the decision and frankly was pretty interested at first to see what they’d do.  Now I’ve lost patience.  I drove by this morning thinking “why don’t these people just make a damn decision already!!  It’s six colors – just pick one and deal with it!”  I shouldn’t have judged this poor strip mall – because not long after it starting judging me.

I am a thinker.  I think and analyze and rethink and re-analyze.  It’s a beautiful cycle and, I might add, an important one.  But there comes a point in when you have enough information, counsel, and instinct to move forward.  At that place, you HAVE to move.

In surfing, there’s a place where the power of the wave picks up the board, you’re committed, and you’re no longer in control.  You can’t bail out b/c that’s how boards get broken and heads get concussed – so you have to commit and ride.  There are two emotions there (especially b/c I suck at surfing) one is an extraordinary sense of release and the other is sheer terror.

Fear can paralyze.

The fear comes from any number of unpredictable events.  The wave can break wrong, your balance can shift just slightly and throw you off.  If the wave is big enough, when you fall off it can hold you under until you don’t think you can hold your breathe any more.  Committing to a wave like that requires you to be all in, focused, and no longer moving under the power of your own arms but working with the wave to get where you are going.  I wonder if I have what it takes.

On the other side, committing is an indescribable feeling – to no longer have a plan b or c…for the next little while you’re going where this this thing is taking you.  You are moving in a way that you can’t on your own – and it feels like freedom.

The worst scenario is if we do nothing.  Limbo is one of the most painful places in life – and miserable, and dangerous. But what that strip mall showed me is how much I am doing it and how ridiculous it looks.  I have a ton of decisions that need to be made right now.  I am terrified of getting meeting the right guy and getting married b/c my life will no longer be my own.  I want to move west and feel the power and rhythm of a new city – and be challenged by a new job and industry.  But i’ve stood still.  And i’ve done it for too long.  It’s time to just decide and move forward.  It is still really terrifying – but it’s more painful to be stuck in limbo – and the hope of freedom is seductive.

I still have no idea if I have what it takes to walk away from what i need to walk away from and walk into what is extraordinary.  But I have to trust that in the midst of the inevitable number of unpredictable events, I will find a way to adjust and learn and grow to figure it out.

so, thank you strip mall – let’s both decide and move on.

hammered

October 25, 2009

smiths1My friends, the Turners, live on one of those idyllic blocks on the water with great views and even better neighbors.  The Smiths, their next door neighbors moved from Colorado a few years ago and are finally getting around to building their dream house.

House-sitting while the Turners are out of town, I left for work Friday and the guest house had been torn down but the main house was still standing.  It looked odd enough, but for the most part, everything still seemed the same.  By the time I got home that night – the main house was in rubbles and half of the lot had been cleared.

One day.

In one day a house that probably took over a year to build and had stood for 20 was gone. And I remembered one of the most foundational lessons I’ve ever learned:

Hammers.  They are equally as capable of destroying something as they are building something up.  What never occurred to me until now; however, is that sometimes you have to do some tearing down to build something better.

The bible talks about this when it says, “wounds from a friend can be trusted.”  I don’t think that gives us a right to call intimate strangers friends, nor do I think it gives us license to go around beating people up.  I do think there is a powerful and beautiful truth there, that if applying correctly could actually catapult us into freedom and life.

but it begs a lot of questions.  Who is a friend? When do I speak up? How do I say what needs to be said?  Moreover, who am I listening to? Are they close enough to really know and challenge me?  I don’t know, and what makes it hard is that it constantly changes from relationship to relationship and even day to day.  Like, some days are just not they day to throw the wrecking ball…but i want to be the kind of person who really loves and encourages people – and does it well.

And i think that starts with getting hammered.  Getting great at this idea that my actions, attitudes, and words are all their own hammers.  Are they building people up? Do they break people down? Are they used to break people down to then build them up?

uncensored grace

October 21, 2009

found this today….it says it all

see, i never intended to become a christian. growing up in church i learned a lot about hypocrisy, spiritual crutches, how to be fake, and obligation.  i never learned about Jesus.  The word, they tried to tell me, became religion, philosophy, spirituality, morality, and political.  They lied.  They still do.  The word became flesh and showed up to change everything.  Nobody i saw growing up looked different after they met this Jesus; but, when i met the one called Jesus, everything changed for me.  I wish I could say I even knew how i knew, but if God is who He says He is, He knows what you need to know…and I at some point, I just knew. He is real.  He is Savior. He is uncensored.

———–———-

uncensored grace is what you get from a loving God when all the religious types have gone home, and every last hope for your own effort has blown up in your face. Uncensored means that there is no formula or membership or performance that stands between you and God’s goodness. Uncensored means that as wide and deep and high as your mountain of personal ruin might get, God’s transforming grace through Jesus is always wider and deeper and higher.

wanted

October 18, 2009

i saw a WANTED poster today in a convenience store.  it was kind of odd really because i didn’t think they still used that kind of stuff with TV and the internet and all .  It was a photograph too, not a sketch. Surprised, and somewhat fascinated to see a non-cartoonish figure, i stopped to take him in for a second. 

wanted. with a face.  and a name.  and a list of the things that make him wanted.  staring long at this person, i found myself thinking of the irony – most (like 90%) criminals are men who grew up without fathers – that this guy now appears with a list of behaviors and a label “WANTED” all because he probably felt unwanted his whole life. 

the truth is, i’m not all that different from the guy on that poster.  my pictures appear in magazines and on student ID cards at prestigious universities.  images of me appear in front of beautiful cars and exotic landscapes. I frame them and imagine “WANTED” as a subscript on a snapshot with faux parents and friends.  Maybe my list of behaviors aren’t lawless acts that defy the penal code.  but the deep and painful reality hit me like a tsunami today in that store, that my life is a crafted response to the pain of being unwanted.

unwanted and abandoned by my parents, liked and accepted, but unwanted by my faux parents, nobody has ever wanted me to be their kid.  nobody wants me to be there wife.  nobody wants me to be anything really.

i know this is the place where i’m supposed to say God wants me, which is why He came and died; but honestly that’s the biggest problem.  Because none of these other people ever wanted me, i look at God and I ask “why do You?” He makes no sense.

and i really need this: Him, His love, to make sense; because everything in life comes from that place of knowing you’re deeply loved and accepted by God just because – and i’m smart enough to know no one but God can answer that for me.  I could get married tomorrow, but my husband can’t fix it.  I could be famous today and forever but attention won’t anesthetize it.  I could have wealth beyond measure and pursue constant pleasure but freedom isn’t for sale.  

All the things I can think to do just to be feel wanted are equally as likely to put me in a prison as the guy on that poster.  Maybe it isn’t made of steel bars, but it’s just as confining.  and i wont go there.  i wont believe something less than the truth even if i don’t know how to believe it.  that’s not life or freedom.

so i sit here and i wonder about that guy on the poster, and I think how easily that could be me…

God, if You would be so kind as to let me ask and to give me the heart to receive an answer from You and You alone-

am i wanted?

all things new

October 17, 2009

one of the most transformative messages i’ve ever heard was by a guy named Mike Atkins titled “Crossing the Jordan.”  In it, he said, in life, although there are daily surrenders [to God] there are also significant surrenders – that once you cross over you know you will never be the same again.

this week has been one of those. 

i’d be lying if i said it wasn’t unbelievably difficult, if not excruciating.  Actually, heartbreaking was the word that kept coming to mind…I think sometimes God has to allow our heart to be broken – almost like a doctor has to break a bone that deformed in order to set it right again…i know doctors do that because my knee surgeon almost had to break my leg in 3 places to realign it.  but he didnt, which is another story all together, but even with his apparent hesitation, i remember thinking two things.  He knew better than I did, and i trusted him.  

this morning i woke up to this verse-of-the-day in my email, “The Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

I walked by my mailbox on the way to see the sunrise.  I found a signed copy of Don Miller’s “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years” and the new issue of the Utne Reader.  That’s what I call a good mail day.  Stepping out on the sand, i saw the massive cold front having pushed a line of steel-gray clouds as a curtain for today’s dawn.  It was cold – very cold – the kind at the front of a front kind of cold.  I knew the chill came because the winds changed.

I knew that even though i couldn’t see the sun rising, it was coming. 

I know who is close to me.  I know in a way beyond knowing that all things have become new.

what do you hope in?

October 16, 2009

it’s been a bad week.  hell, it’s been a bad two months.  Not in the existential sense, more in the material and physical.  Pick a sphere of life – education, work, community, friends, family, romance, money, health, whatever – and it has been challenged, broken, or bruised in some way.

it’s been interesting.  i can’t say i like seasons like this – but i’ve come to appreciate them.  there’s so much that true and right and beautiful that can come from them.

i say “can” come from them b/c it wasn’t always this way.  Disappointment has been a pretty constant protagonist since I was about 12.  I read once that Norwegians were the happiest people b/c they have low expectations.  And we believe that lie.  We tell ourselves if we just expect less that we’ll be happy and never know disappointment.

But it’s not that we should lower our hope; it’s that we hope in the wrong things.  And we don’t ever say we are hoping in the wrong things, we just set a goal.  Because goal sounds better than false god.   Jon Tyson explains this brilliantly in his sermon “A call to community, faith hope and love

It’s a deadly subtilty. 

But to live is to live in that dialectic.  Certainly, to live as a christ-follower is to be familiar with this tension.  We are embedded with the infinite, the eternal – and we exist in the finite and temporal.  So we know, we KNOW, in the like deep down kind of knowing, that there’s a place where circumstances align to make us fully alive and free.  But we’re not alive and we’re not free and we feel that in our bones every day.

So we hope.  Hope is a good thing.  It’s right to hope.  It’s right to feel the discord between what is and what should be.

but what do you hope in? what do you rationalize and package as enlightenment as the thing that will anesthetize the angst?

I’ve done it all, I’ve named them all, I’ve been disappointed by them all. 

And i’m so grateful for that.  I think this is what Jesus was talking about when he told the woman at the well “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

i never understood this, b/c i drink about a gallon of water a day.  and i know Jesus.  I don’t think he is saying we’ll be instantly satisfied in him and remain that way forever.  He’s saying our hope, our thirst will be directed toward him disappointment after disappointment because we’ve tasted Him.  And as it is directed toward Him we will find the life and freedom we so desperately crave.

at least that’s what i’m hoping.

remember, remember…

October 12, 2009

IMG00006Dry and cool, Colorado does October like virtually no place else.  I was nervous, but the massive blue sky and imposing Rocky Mountains spoke a peace into my soul.

I had stayed with friends the night before in Denver – The Smiths.  Their summer home was in Florida and had welcomed me to crash their couch in Colorado.  We had a big dinner after their son Zack’s 6th grade lacrosse practice. I chatted with their daughter Alli about the anxst and excitement of 8th grade. They were different than they were in Florida. They were tighter, but i suppose the boundaries of a family unit naturally don’t exist as much during long Florida summer days by the beach.  They were happy.

I wound my way through the mountains up to Vail.  My appointment was at 2 and by 11 or so, I didn’t feel anything.  It was because of nerves, but not the kind you think.  My knee was gnarled from a surgery earlier that year.  The constant neuron fires coming from my knee were now being ignored by my brain.  I was in pain all the time but I didn’t know.  My body would physiologically respond, but I was unaware of the toll it was taking.  I only knew I needed a miracle – and this guy was my last hope.

This was my first trip to Vail – exit 176 on I-70 – I didn’t know what to expect.  As I got lost in the quaint village, inspecting it all like a kid at Disney, I thought about my parents.  They met at camp in the Rockies.  I had a vague recollection that my best friend’s parents, the Whitmire’s had met on a ski-trip here too.

I turned my phone off, which I rarely do now but never did then.  I knew there were texts and voicemails waiting…but I needed some time.  I’d call the Turners – whose lives I thrust into after a bizarre series of events landed me at their house for 3 weeks after my 1st surgery – when I had something to tell.  In the meantime, I walked around the village and down West Meadow Drive to the hospital.

When the elevators opened on the 4th floor, I saw the longest hallway I’ve ever seen.  Ironic, I thought, to make a bunch of orthopedic patients trek down this epic corridor.  It was a hall of intimidation, lined with signed jerseys, movie posters, and diplomatic seals top to bottom left to right for probably 20 yards.  All of them said something to the affect of how he did the impossible and how grateful they were.  I knew this guy was good – I didn’t know he was that good.

I checked in and saw a deck outside of the waiting room overlooking the mountain.  Vail is quiet in October.  I got out my phone and snapped a picture.  Sunny and spectacular, there wasn’t a flake of snow on the ground.  I felt at home on the deck; we Florida people, we gravitate toward sun.

Soon enough I was in an exam room and he came in.  The 6’5″ broad-shouldered blue-eyed legend, Dr. J. Richard Steadman.  He reminded me of my grandfather – not because he was old, but because he was kind, smart, and had an endless smile.  He had been briefed on my case before he came to shake my hand – so when he sat down and said, “I know you’ve told your story, but I want to hear it.  I want to hear what you’ve been through from you.  I want to know what it means to you to be limited by this and how that makes you afraid.” I became connected and engaged.

i spent an hour being asked questions, laughing, showing off the 8 month old bruises on my cantaloupe-sized knee, and being captivated by one of the greats.

Finally the verdict came down.  Eagerly awaiting the answer from this man, this man who wrote the book on knees – who has put everyone back together so they can add olympic gold and superbowl diamonds to their collections, I sat blankly.  It had been 8 1/2 months with no answer.

“I don’t know”  he said, “I’m going to have to go in and look.”  by going in, of course, he meant surgery.  Which isn’t unusual for surgeons, especially of his breed.  They don’t care about insurance and malpractice; they are hands-on guys. They might not navigate finances or management or relationships well, but they know the inside of a joint and that is their championship crown.  They aren’t afraid to get in and get messy.  I still like that about him.  We agreed; he would operate.  I would call when I could work out a date.  I’d return to Vail and we’d go from there.

That was three years ago today.

——–

The Smiths live in Florida full-time now.  Adrienne, the mom, has been battling cancer for the past year and a half.  They are close and happy; I have seen them define family and marriage.

My parents split up, kind of.  What was an increasingly inconvenient diagnosis for my dad has become debilitating.  Mom moved him into assisted living.  In conversation a few months ago she admitted the complexity and difficulty that plagued their entire relationship – which I always knew.

The Whitmires, on a typical Florida Christmas eve that year, said that Janet would go with me in January to take care of me after surgery.  I burst into tears that night.  She gave me a big hug.  I didn’t cry a lot then.  This July, in their house that’s now in Jackson Hole, they prayed for me.  I burst into tears that night too. I cry a lot more now.

There was no way I could have known the events that would unfold in the three years between that day and this one.

I couldn’t have imagined then the couple dozen trips I’d take for surgery and check-ups and injections. I didn’t yet have favorite places, I hadn’t yet made the memories, I could not have guessed I’d fall in and out of love with a guy who lived in one of those houses on West Meadow Drive.  I didn’t know the Turners would become people I call when I have nothing to say at all.

Part of me wants to forget…there are a lot of memories in those mountains. But a mountain has as much of an uphill struggle as it does an impressive view.  I want to forget the missteps and mistakes.  I want to erase the stories of how my old annoying and awkward tendencies came to life and died in those years. I want to skim over the difficult and go straight to the magnificent.

But God keeps saying “remember.”  Over and over again in Deuteronomy, when the Israelites reach the promised land, He says “remember, remember the place from which you came, remember the desert.”  Why? Why is it so important to remember? I’m in a better place now.  I’m different now.  But today, staring at this date, I remember who I was and what these years have held.  And it’s good.  It’s right.

I really didn’t know then that I would heal or even if I could be fixed.  I had no idea that God would heal my heart through that process way more than He did my knee.  If I didn’t remember that, it would not be as profound to say that I am healed; that I was made different, by events, people, places, and circumstances I didn’t plan and couldn’t have predicted.

that is the fullness of the miracle.

and i will remember it all.

11 I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will consider all your works and meditate on all your mighty deeds.”

9:18 am confessions

October 7, 2009

In high school, my friend Merrill and I would often have something to say, but never say it.  Usually it was sensitive information, or something that was too nebulous or uncool to utter out loud.  Speaking it meant trusting the other to sort through what’s real and not, what’s you and what’s a version of you that’s changing.  And since, in high school, you’re learning who and how to trust – it was usually around midnight when we were too tired to pretend everything was OK that we’d spill it.  It also typically came after a long drive and very loud music in Henry, my beloved 1st car. (sorry I forgot to put oil in you and you blew up, RIP Henry)

These aptly became named “midnight confessions”

We’ve both grown up a lot since then and a week or so ago she dropped something huge – at dinner, in a restaurant.  We’ve come so far. Then again, when you put in the kind of time and care and cost to sustain a relationship for 15 years, it gets easier.

****

No one I know reads this blog, and if they do, it’s not because I ever told them about it.  I’m not a writer, I’m not trying to be one.  The people that know me probably hear or have heard all of this stuff at some point over margaritas or fried egg sandwiches (i create a lot of odd traditions w/ my brood).  So this is more for me.  Putting thoughts in prose helps tie the clouds together – and who knows, maybe an unknown surfer will one day ride onto this wave and connect w/ the seemingly immense and perpetual struggles that come from navigating value and purpose in our culture.

I think we all desperately want to be part of a great story – and to do so we have to change.  Too bad the tools to learn how to become a healthy, fully-alive human being are almost non-existent in American culture.

****

It’s 9:29 am now, and I have a confession.

I was too immature to love the first boy I loved.  I didn’t know how to navigate the obligations of intimacy nor did he.  I didn’t know it was unwise to hold nothing back when there wasn’t a commitment to bind it, so I didn’t.  We were the best of friends so sex wasn’t a question, but relationally, we went far past the line.  When he ditched me and the heart I had handed him for the hottest girl he knew – it naturally translated into “boys want bodies, not hearts.”  And I wanted boys, so I got sexy.

I spent years believing that lie. Well, in all fairness, some guys do just want bodies, but they’re cowards: afraid they don’t have what it takes to love and die for a woman.  I let guys be a lesser version of a man. I  bartered my sexuality for attention.  I’m different now, I’ve learned.  I’ve been invited into great, legend marriages and families to see how communication, trust, commitment, and intimacy work together to create the kind of home where love thrives. “What’s more freeing than being loved well?” I once asked my friend Don Miller – to which he replied, “loving well.”

Selah.

I don’t know many men like him and even though I now know better, I still don’t get a lot of attention from guys outside of my sexuality.  I’m remarkably uncool around good guys.  I had a lot of practice on the other side, so non-sexual conversations still feel a little awkward.  Maybe I guard the sex-vibe too much and then instinctively play the sex card, so the poor fellows aren’t sure which category of girl to put me in.  Who knows, all I know is that, I wonder…

I wonder if a guy will ever want to hold my naked heart as much as he does my naked body.

I wonder how many people wonder the same…

Lenny

October 5, 2009

Part of b-school, involves electing people into leadership positions.  After peer nominations last week, I discovered I got nods for both class representative and judicial board.  It’s funny how things strike up a memory.

I spent most of school just wanting to be popular.  The right friends, looks, boyfriend, parties, etc – I dissected what it would take to get “there” and was pretty surprised at how easily I did.

Until Lenny.

My thesis advisor, Lenny, was everyone’s favorite professor.  I was his favorite student.  I argued with almost everything he said.  I despised his arrogance but enjoyed his wit.  He challenged me right back.  I’ll never forget the day, sitting in his office discussing politics, society, and media, when he curtly said, “You’re a Christian? I thought you were smarter than that.”  For 3 hours he interrogated every tenant of my faith.  I left exhausted, but with an untouchable confidence about how I know what I know is true.

It was in that same office on January 26, 2001 that I nervously sat as he delivered a soliloquy as to why one comment had flirted with a serious honor code violation.  After a month of deliberation, he decided the circumstances were an error in judgment, and, according to the honor code, he would use the opportunity educate me.

Oh, he educated me that day.

I was at the height of my popularity.  School was easy; life was fun; people were disposable.  His anger didn’t make any sense.  I told him it was a misunderstanding, a joke.  He wasn’t laughing.  He stared until we locked eyes – he needed to know I heard this.  “I’m dropping your thesis.”  WHAT? I was pissed but quickly went into damage control mode – spouting my best sales pitch(es) to change his mind.

He wasn’t budging.  I was shocked, and genuinely upset, and still talking.

After a good half-hour, he stopped me.  “I’m not upset about a passing comment, I’m disappointed in you.”  Wow, thanks for clearing that up.

He went on, “it is remarkable that at no point did you ever consider how your actions would impact another person, let alone me.  The position it put me in didn’t even cross your mind.”  Now I was just lost.

I think the blank stare on my face pissed him of more.

He went on, “Let me say it as clearly as I know how: the world is not your stage, and you are not the center player.”

Really? That’s actually exactly the way I thought the world worked.  What do you mean I don’t control the moving parts of my life? Are you suggesting I can’t manipulate people into loving me and doing what I want?  No, I thought, you don’t understand how this works – if I can only be pretty, smart, and charming enough – people will have to love me and do what I want.

It’s terrifying to think how genuinely I believed that.  That lie has taken a lot of people out.

He saw something I couldn’t.  He saw the effects of a life absent any boundaries or guidance.  He saw a girl who wondered whether anyone could actually love her if they really knew who she was.  He saw through the thin veneer of notoriety to the need – the kind that is only satisfied by a Savior.

And he had a choice; he could ruin me for sport or ruin me to build something better.  We often get that choice in other people’s lives.  He went on to tell me about how love isn’t love if it’s manipulated.  He said that, if I needed a person in the wrong sense, I’d lose them. And if I couldn’t be selfless, I would never be fully alive.  He was right.  I didn’t understand the implications of those statements – of the gift he was handing me; but, I trusted him enough to let doubt be introduced.  And the trajectory of my life literally changed that day.

I don’t know why an email reminded me of that day with Lenny.  Maybe just the thought of an honor code proceeding took me back – but I’m glad it did.  How many moments do we get to realize we are different?  It didn’t happen that day, it has happened over 9 years and is still happening.  The how and the why are beautiful stories – about God, not about me.  But in all, I’m made of something now that I wasn’t then and for a moment today, I felt the difference between two versions of myself.  And this one feels pretty damn good.