Risk! Risk anything! Care no more for the opinions of others, for those voices. Do the hardest thing on earth for you. Act for yourself. Face the truth.
There is such an amazing world out there. There are things I haven't seen yet that will fill my heart with light. There are people I should not trust out there. There are foods that one day I will eat again that will amaze my taste buds. There is love. There are celebrations. There are deaths.
I'm working at my old office again until I go back to school. The great part of being back in my old office is the intensely spiritual moments you end up having by accident. Like today, a local pastor was in the office and he came into the office where I was working when he saw me. We got into the topic of marriage and relationships because he's a pastor and the three things that evangelical pastors talk about are: marriage, parenting and money. I guess that's because those three things are the things we care most about.
However our conversation steered into it, he was saying how lucky I must be to be at the beginning of such an exciting adventure and to have so much going for me. He started talking about how lucky I was to be such a woman because any man would see me as the penultimate greatest woman alive. Funny guy. I corrected him, of course, and said that most of the people I run with, particularly the men, would not see any of that. He just laughed. I promised him that Nashville had much hotter and much charming-er women to offer--that I have personally seen what Nashville has to offer and it bewilders even me.
He stopped me and said that he was surprised to hear me compare myself to any other woman because I have what no other women have: An unusually bright mind, a sincere love for the Lord, the ability to hold discussions on any number of topics and real beauty. I was astonished by the compliments because this is not one of my great admirers, honestly. He and I have had a number of rough arguments over the last five years. But then again, that's why I trust him. He never tells me what I want to hear.
He was funny because he was saying funny things like: "If she's the right woman for a man, she doesn't have to do a thing--not even brush her hair. The man just knows."
We talked about what happens when a woman rejects a man and he changes to win her over. Sometimes it works for a little while but eventually the woman sees who he is underneath all the fraud and rejects him again. The pastor said that the worst thing a man can do is reject himself, because then everybody else will reject him eventually, too.
I think he was surprised to end up saying everything that he said. But it's funny how conversations happen like that and how important they end up being. Today I remembered again that I have a calling that I've always felt was distinct and important. That there's something that matters deep within me--and it regards not only the job I intend to work at, but also the type of relationship I would want to be a part of. So many years ago that it's hard to remember, my friend Cortni and I took a communications class in Bible college and I felt certain that one day I would teach classes like that in a church setting with my husband. Strange as it seems now, it was one of the most destiny-like sensations I've ever known.
In a lot of ways, because of some things that happened in 2006, I wanted to forget any ideas of calling or destiny. I wanted to be able to just be human and to enjoy being young and female and stupid. Of course, when I say it like that it doesn't have the same attraction as it did then. Then it seemed so authentic to want to be animal rather than angel.
Today I was reminded that living like an animal isn't that authentic after all. There's a higher calling for each of us, something that requires development and patience. And faith to believe in yourself when the animals around you don't. ;)
As I was going about my day, praying and reading and blogging and gymming, I had this picture in my heart over and over again. At one point I just realized that it might be a picture that God was giving me as a metaphor. The picture is of a drinking gourd. You know the ones from elementary school history books on early civilizations.
The picture I got was that my life is like a drinking gourd and that the things I've surrounded myself with over the past two years have been like a dark wine inside the gourd. No matter what I do now, I feel as though the inside of me has been stained by some pretty defeating experiences with people and situations.
I saw the inside of the gourd being sanded and scraped out. Some things you can't water away, and I know that better than anyone else.
So much of Nashville is cool, rather than good. I want that scraped away from me, too.
Shelby cut off her cable. She's not really living here anymore because the house is selling, so in addition to selling her washer and dryer and our microwave, she has ended the cable.
For most people that means one of two things: you go sit at a funky coffee shop to do your Facebooking, or you perch yourself on the corner of your living room floor where you get the best reception of your neighbor's internet connection. I have chosen to do the latter and am currently sitting next to a chilly window in my pajamas and Ugg boots.
So I was looking at a Facebook page and then I clicked onto something really juicy and waited for the page to load. But after a few moments of loading the screen went blank with the words, "Your computer is not connected to the internet." YES it is, I wanted to yell back. It's just not a great connection.
So of course this got me thinking about my connection with God. Am I doing the same thing in my spiritual walk? Do I connect to past experiences of worship and prayer that are so far removed from the present that they no longer have the same inspirational power that they used to?
Is my heart so far away from the worship that when I'm in the middle of something juicy and I need to hear from God, I get silence or a blank page telling me that my heart is not connected to God at the moment?
It happens. I was just telling Whitney last night that sometimes I feel like I'm only a shell of the person I once was. My zeal and my hope are out there, or in here rather, but the only way I'll be able to grab onto them and embody them again is if I've got full bars again.
I guess that's what this blog is about. I need to stop moving from corner to corner in this living room, trying to get this weak connection to be just barely good enough to view an internet page for 10 seconds. I need to figure out where it is that God offers me the strongest connection and move myself and my connection there.
Last night, while reading Deuteronomy, I came across a verse that sounds a lot like this. God is instructing the Israelites through Moses about how they will live in the land He has promised them. Moses says in Deut 12:5:
But you shall seek the place where the Lord your God chooses...to put His name for His dwelling place; and there you shall go.
Yeah, he was talking about where God would set up camp among the tribes, but I think God was speaking through this age old scripture to me here in Tennessee. It's an invitation to look around my life and ask God how He wants to set up camp among the various things going on for me right now. Where does He want me to worship Him? How? Is it in the morning or the night? Is it with my Bible open and my mouth shut or is it with my hands in the air on the back porch, singing out? Is it in a coffee shop in the middle of the city bustle or is it on the path around the lake?
I want to find where He is setting up His dwelling place in my life and go there. That's where my connection with Him will be the strongest. That's how I will embody hope and zeal this year. One might say that His dwelling place is wherever we are. In the same vein, those people begin to think that whatever they do, because they are children of God, they are living out the will of God, and may make very little effort to embody anything outside of their own desires.
I would say to those people that a quick read through Deuteronomy might give them a better view of how God expects His people to live. And I'm not talking about the clean and unclean animals. But God is giving these commandments about clean living and proper prioritizing of life and tells the people, "You shall not at all do as we are doing here today--every man doing whatever is right in his own eyes." (Deut 12:8) So even though it's true that God is always with us and that we are His dwelling place, it's also true that we must set Him apart in our hearts as Lord. And that other Christian catch-phrase, "If He's not Lord OF ALL, He's not Lord AT ALL."
New year, new start. I don't know why I put that last part in, but just in cases.
They're a real problem for me right now. The fingernail problem is that once I ran out of multivitamins my fingernails all broke off and slivered away into these ugly, chipped, watery, thin vestiges of their former glory. My fingernails are crispy and layered like flimsy, pale croissant dough on the ends of my hands. Just when I think they can break no further and get no shorter, one quick tap on a hard surface proves me wrong.
Their shape can be described as squoval with a shark-tooth edge. And the plain fact of the matter is that they are so broken into so many filaments that every form of dirt and squalor settles in their crusty little nooks and no amount of Gojo or hand cream can wrench the dirt free.
I look down constantly, touch my nails constantly, clean my nails constantly. It's a source of extraordinary consternation every day. I cannot have strong, healthy nails again until I have a strong, healthy bank account again and can finally buy another bottle of magic multivitamins. And here we find our dear antprotagonist in the middle of her despair.
I look down at these nails and they are a symbol of my spiritual life. A symbol of how unclean I have felt lately. Every time I look down on them they've picked up a new piece of dirt and they are perpetually dyed dark blue from the indigo ink of my newer dark jeans. I am constantly picking at them and finding sinks to wash them in, trying to make them white as snow.
Why are they so unwilling to be clean?
It feels out of my control. It feels like no matter how many times I wash them, they'll always be dirty. I'll be the icky street urchin with the dark blue shark-tooth nails. How unfair. How cosmically sad. And yet, part of me says, "Of course."
"Of course my hands are icky. I'm icky. My hands and my skin and my hair and my teeth and my cold feet are all icky. That's why nothing works out in my life. I'm an icky person."
Hello? What is that all about? I think it's time to get an new iPod mix if that's the stuff I've been listening to in my head because I'm not icky. First of all, I take showers just like everyone else. I wash my hands constantly and I put lotion on. Yes my hands are dry and yes my fingernails are going through a crisis, but I AM NOT ICKY!
Secondly, God has come into my life to set things aright and to bring life and healing to every area of my little Oliver Twist world. Starting with my heart, but eventually getting all the way back to my hands when the season calls for it. He loves me.
He loves me. Even though I don't look pretty today. Even though I've gained weight over Christmas because of those bleepety chocolate crinkle cookies. He loves me even when I'm absurd and when my heart hurts and it shows in the way I act and the things I say. He loves me when I'm tired and cranky. He loves me when I look good and when I don't. When I act good and when I don't.
I'm afraid of what life will be like for me out here in the Siberian winter, on the fringes of pop-culture where the smurfy-crusted hand people make their existence. I keep trying to make my hands clean so that I can avoid how uncomfortable this is. How hard it is to love myself when I start to feel icky.
I must move forward, though. It's time to wash my hands with a blindfold on, to clean the filth that I can clean, and trust God in His providence and mercy that He will take care of all the dirt and filth that resists my soap and water.
Then it's done and you can enjoy the rest of your day.
I watched a romantic comedy tonight about accidental love. It wasn't very good. Both of the actors were pretty shoddy, in fact. But it's cold outside and I don't have a job to go to in the morning, so I let myself suffer through the bad parts.
First thing I need to do in the morning is find a job. And get a Jillian workout video to make up for not having a gym to use.
And make breakfast. That's probably the very first thing.
It's probably good to follow up a few serious posts with some light-hearted writings.
Firstly, it's part of my nature to be soulful and melancholy. Secondly, I've always had a spot in my heart for ridiculous adventures. Thirdly, out of sight, out of mind. Problems are only as big as the space you give them in the room. And at the moment, I'm in a room full of strangers and the only problems I have in front of me are the obscene lack of food being sold at Bongo Java on Sunday nights and the sad fact of having no more date-planner room left to start an awesome new year.
Shelby and I sat on her bed tonight exchanging secrets. We both are planning on having a fantastic new year, full of excitement and travel and new things. Both of us are glad that 2009 is over over over.
I'm going to apply to grad school this year. And by next year I'll be finding out where I will spend the next five years of my life. It won't be here in Nashville, that's the only thing I know for absolutely certain. It will be the newest experience ever. I'll be a grad student. Working on my PhD.
What the heck? Who am I?
And that's something else. I can be anyone I want to be, do anything I want to do. I want to volunteer with children's charities and work on my physical endurance so that I can do some of the weirder yoga poses I've seen in the magazines at the school gym. Things like balancing on your head and stuff. I can fall in love again with life, because I have this thing where I get so caught up in another person's needs and interests that I forget what it's like to be myself. And then I resent them for awhile. But after all of that's over, I forget them and I go on about my business of working out the kinks in my own life. So I'm back to that now.
I'm on a plane again. An auspicious way to start a new year. We're headed to Chicago for a stopover before Nashville and the pilot just announced that it is 7 degrees Fahrenheit in the Windy City today.
Welcome 2010. I don't know what you have in store for me yet. Maybe I was more sure last week when everything made more sense. Just a few days ago I knew what I wanted in the new year. Now I'm not so sure.
It's hard to understand what I feel right now. Perhaps my heart is damp after the rain. Maybe it has been filled and emptied out at the same time.