Saturday, December 18, 2010


I haven't typed extensively in a fairly long time. I did that marathon run of typing at the end of November to finish off NaNoWriMo. Which I did, but it took two days to write about 25,000 words. Which is a lot of typing. So I inadvertently gave my tiny muscles a little rest. Also, I've been really busy and exhausted at work. It feels surprisingly good to be typing again, and the rhythmic clicking of the keys on the keyboard is rather soothing ... much akin to the rhythmic clicking of the turn signal indicator in a car -- which is why I always use my turn signals.

This weekend is the bi-annual (that means every two years, right?) Wible family Christmas party. Every other year, on the even years, on the Saturday before or after Christmas, all the Wibles (so all the family on my dad's side) come to our house and hang out. Now, most people may groan at this thought, but that's because most people are not members of my family. My family kicks your family's butt. Well, we would, if we didn't love you so much. I do seriously wish every person on the planet could be a part of my family. I'll bet a great deal of the problems would be null if they spent some time with my family. Also probably some of the crises in Africa as well. We're pretty much the best. And super humble, too. Except for me. But somebody has to speak up for us. Anyway. Here's just a small story about my family. It's really a small story, because it's mostly about me.

Recently I have not been playing the oboe. Well, I haven't been practicing it. I have instead been spending 40+ hours at Starbucks or in my car or my bed ... but not really so much time in bed, mostly at work, or my car. Or my kitchen, but not cooking things for me; instead baking things for Starbucks. That's not important. I haven't been practicing and I've been feeling bad about it. But here's the thing, I haven't been feeling bad about it because I miss it; I feel bad about it because I actually don't really miss it; I just feel guilty for not practicing when I know I should and when I know I need to because I still have gigs I need to play and I need to not suck and bring everybody else down. As much as I do love to help and serve people and will go out of my way to do things to make life easier on others, I can't seem to make myself practice, which would be a great service to my principal player, my conductor and the rest of my colleagues. So I've been feeling guilty about it -- like I'm letting my colleagues down and I'm wasting my education.
I was telling my Aunt Marshmallow this (I used to call her Aunt Marshmallow, to help me distinguish between Aunt Chocolate ... I'll tell that story another time). And this is what my Aunt Marshmallow who is now retired so wisely said:

"Guilt is overrated."

Not kidding. I love it!
So my new plan for life: Work for NPR on All Songs Considered. But I'm still going to take auditions and stuff. Because I do still like to be involved in the music-making process somehow; and truthfully, God has given me a gift to do it well. And I just don't know what to make of it.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

“The Contemplator” by Eugène Carrière

I had a dream one night that I turned into a star. I spent my time glowing and whirling in space, dancing like I hadn’t danced since I was six, when I had my special twirling skirts. They had to go through a rigorous test of twirling ability in the stores before I gave my mom the nod of approval to purchase. The hours went by full of giggling and laughing with the other stars by my side. There were hundreds of us, no thousands. And we all had the most glorious time. Telling stories of our travels, our past lives, the things we’d seen from our special view up in the highest heights of the heavens. And yet time stood still as we twirled, since we weren’t depending on the sun to tell us when to begin and when to go to bed. We could spin and twirl and giggle and play as much as we should desire. A few of the rambunctious stars would have races and go whizzing by leaving nothing but the merest trail behind. The moon read us poems and the sun told us jokes. And oh! The things I saw from up there!

I saw the colors the Earth turns with the beginning of each new day and I saw the sky paintings from the moon when he would come and take his place on the stage. I saw the shapes the clouds would make, playing their own version of charades with us stars. And I could see the dolphins dancing, too. We in our heavens, they in their oceans. Playing with hearts light as a feather.

But the heartache I saw! Not in the heavens. Somehow the stars all get along. There is plenty of space there, but no one need ever be lonely or alone. There are always friends and somehow distance is very different there. There are no houses or walls. No fences or barriers. The suns arms can reach wherever they should pleace and there is no disappointment or need for alarm. There are no possessions and no need for possessions. No the heavens have no heartache, but for the heartache they see the humans make. The heartache they can see down on the Earth. There is noise made from construction as people seek to close themselves off from each other. And there is noise from the destruction as people seek to be alone with those who are alike. And there is so much darkness. The sun cannot go wherever it chooses, but only wherever people allow it. And there are clouds of black and brown, carrying in them not the healing and rejuvenating powers of rain and water, but the hurtful powers of carcinogens and pollution. If they do not seek to destroy others, they seek to destroy themselves. Power is all people want. Power over others. Power against others. Power over themselves. There is no freedom. There is so little joy. So many tears. So much crying. So little laughing. The sun doesn’t tell them jokes. She used to. People used to understand the words of the sun. They would laugh and play together until it was time for her to go away and for the moon to read them poetry. But now they don’t understand the sun’s words when she speaks. They sound like sirens and burn like a fire. People now must seek to protect themselves from her embrace, they do not remember the days when her touch was gentle and welcome. And the moon’s poems cannot be heard either. Every night he would write for them a new poem, about magic and hope. But now they only hear rumors and confusion and witchcraft. He still reads to them, but his voice grows softer and more feebler each night they don’t listen. So he reads to us. We hear him. And we like him, too. And he likes us.

And together we all laugh and dance and speak. There is no heartache up here. Even when a fellow star has lived and spun for a long long time, and he gets tired and finds he can spin no more, we do not cry and we do not mourn. We continue spinning. And so does he. He dons his finest glow and spins his fastest spin until he cannot hold himself together anymore and his joy in his life causes him to explode in beauty. Sometimes his explosion is so big, for he has had so much joy that it consumes that which is all around in. People are afraid of death. They are afraid to stop spinning. But it is not a bad thing. It is a joyous occasion. To go out glowing and bright and beautiful and then to rest, knowing one has spun every spin one has to spin. And to be consumed by someone else’s explosion is not scary. You have merely come to the end of your own spins as well. You will both get to rest together.

People don’t understand anymore. I think they used to understand. A long, long time ago. They would walk together and laugh and they would spin and dance, too. And they would tell jokes with the sun and read poetry with the moon and they would sing songs with the wind and they would dance with the rain and paint with the flowers. But they don’t do any of that anymore. Not very many of them, do, anyway. Sometimes a person will begin to understand. Sometimes a person comes along who hears the jokes of the sun and understands. Or hears the poetry of the moon and is consoled. Sometimes a person comes along who remembers what it used to be like. And when that happens, the stars spin a little faster and glow a little brighter and the sun’s jokes are a little funnier and the moon’s poetry a little deeper.

That night I was a star made me see so much. But soon the sun reminded me that I was not born to be a star. But that didn’t mean I wasn’t allowed to spin. In my own way, in my own space, in my own world. So I waved goodbye to my friends the spinning stars, and I told the sun one last joke and the moon read me one last poem and I returned to my bed, where I awoke the next morning and started my day with my very best twirling skirt.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Morning after the Deluge

It's November again. Which means it's time for NaNoWriMo. (National Novel Writing Month) I did this last year and I'm doing it again this year. Here's my plan: Take the adage "A picture's worth a thousand words" at face value. I'm taking 50 paintings/photographs and writing 1,000 words for each. (Give or take a few, because I'm just not that exact.) Here's what I wrote for today. This is totally raw and unedited. Don't judge. Just enjoy!

“The Morning after the Deluge” Joseph Mallord William Turner


The stern arms of the sun had reached the Earth, but one wouldn’t know for all the dust remaining in the air – suspended by some force made visible by those particles it now held firmly in place, preventing a clear image of anything from being formed.

I suppose we should have expected this sort of reaction. He had said we would die. This must be death, this lack of clarity. Nothing can be seen, everything seems to be a trick of the eye. Nothing can be heard, all is silent, and it is deafening. Nothing can be felt, except the utter loneliness. There is no air to breath. Only dust. Only brown.

Madness swirls around me, closing in, threatening the death I seem to have survived. But only just barely.

The funny thing is, just before this all happened – this explosion, this collapse – everything had actually become so very clear. I knew things I had never known before. I knew black. And I knew white. Now I seem to only know brown. I knew there was such a thing as choice. And that with choice came a right and a wrong. There was a choice I should make. And there was a choice I should not make. But I only knew this by making the choice I should not have made. Funny isn’t it? Only I’m not laughing. No one is laughing. There is no one left to laugh. But there were only three of us to begin with. Or were there four? Whatever the answer, now there is only me. And maybe Her. I hope there is still Her. It would be hard to go back to being just me again. Jackasses make terrible company. But I suppose they’re better than nothing. Where is she? Could she have died, too? Died the way I have? Or is she gone? Forever. Further and deeper than I can imagine because the fault was hers? She was the first to choose. She was the first to listen to that voice. To that fourth. To that uninvited guest. She was the first to see. To know. To feel. To die.

But I was her caretaker. I was her guardian. I let her out of my sight. I let her go too far. I let her go by herself. But was I to keep her by my side all the time? There was so much she wanted to know. That she wanted to know for herself. That I couldn’t teach her nearly as well as she could learn on her own. Should I have chained her to me? Denied her the knowledge? Now there is no knowledge denied to us. And this knowledge has become our chains. Our chains to the Earth. To the dirt.

I am chained to the dirt now. I shall depend on it. I shall offer it all of myself. And if it finds me worthy, it shall reward me. I will sow the seeds of my soul. Of my being. And I will reap the harvest of my survival. My existence.

And I will know what it means to hurt. And I will know what these muscles are for. And I will know what it means to hunger.

And I will know what it means to rest. And I will know what these muscles were made for. And I will know what it means to be satisfied … for a time.

The dust will settle. The world will not always be brown. Not forever. The sun will win the war. All shall be made clear again. Nothing has really changed. And nothing will ever be the same again, but it will be restored.

I will find her. And we will start anew. Both of us this time. Together. No longer alone, but one. We two will be one. We two will go forth from this moment and we two will never look back to what was. Because what was can never be again, but it must be. Everything is being remade every day. And it always will be. We two will never be the same, but we will always be we two.

From here we go on. There will be danger around every corner. There will be confusion and uncertainty. It will be exactly the opposite of what we were seeking and exactly what we asked for. We will know the difference between Good and Evil. But we will know it only because we once had Good and we know have only Evil. But it is something. And I suppose something is better than nothing.

We now walk a dangerous rope, and the net has been removed. Every day we must step very carefully or we risk losing the little we do have. But every day that we succeed will be cause for great celebration. But the fear will exhaust us. The grand celebration we will have planned will look very much like surrender to the evening sun and her sister stars. And in that surrender we shall remember what we once had and we shall feebly hope to have it once again before our eyes close.

And should they be opened anew, we two will once again walk, and ask, and seek, and work. We will talk and eat and cry and maybe laugh. We will fear. And we will learn. And we will love. For that’s all we have left now. We two. I will have her. She will have me. And we have we. And that’s how it will have to be. We have never been here before, but we will come to know this place as home. A modest, imperfect, passable place. A mere shadow of what was and we hope will be again. But if it’s not, we’ll make of it what we can. After all is said and done, perhaps the end really is only the beginning. I will wipe the dust from my eyes and step forward into the world that remains.

Monday, October 25, 2010


I watched Invictus with my roommate and her friend last night. While it certainly wasn't any sort of action flick packed with action, I absolutely loved it. This poem is the movie's namesake. I know it isn't theologically sound, necessarily, but I'm sure there's Truth in it and I love it.

William Ernest Henley

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how straight the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate;
I am the captain of my soul.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

My Favorite Things

Raindrops on roses

And whiskers on kittens

Brown copper kettles

And warm woolen mittens

You know that song from The Sound of Music. The famous one that has somehow become associated with Christmas, even though the only mention of anything remotely related to that holiday is the mention of brown paper packages tied up with strings. I was thinking about that song today and it got me to thinking about my own favorite things. Those things in the song are all nice, very well and good. But mostly not my favorite things, if I were to have to name them. So let’s go. Let’s name our favorite things. I’ll name mine, you name yours.






Pictures of friends







That spot right in the middle of a man’s chest where your head fits perfectly

Hugs that demand all of your soul



Baking cookies for friends … and strangers

Reminding someone that Life really is Beautiful

Dancing to make people laugh

Singing really really loud

Gifts made by friends


The weighty presence of a loved one right next to you


Laughing with someone until you cry or it hurts

That pair of jeans that makes you feel good no matter what

Black & White cookies

These are a few of my favorite things.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Cor Anglais

This just in. The City of Birmingham (in England) is having principal English horn auditions. New goal: Get an English horn STAT, fly to England, take the audition and FIND HB!

Alright kids. Get on this prayer thing.

I'm only half-joking here.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Extended Stay

I am proud and humbled (figure that one out) to say that Operation Appreciate/Love/Invest In Cleveland is going remarkably well. Each day is another baby step away from bitterness at my current living situation. But I have to say, I still feel like I am really on an extended stay or visit to the city -- despite the fact that I just wrote a rent check, I have now worked three weeks straight of nearly 40 hours each week at the same Starbucks location, I recognize most of my customers and they recognize me, and I have an employee parking pass attached to my windshield that makes an electric arm go up and down at my will.

So what makes a place feel like home? Can a place be home even when it doesn't feel like it? How does this whole thing work anyway?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


Okay, so clearly. The only way my last post is going to turn out with a happy ending is if my life actually turns into the movie I so frequently think it is.
And, of course, the determining factor of the tone and outcome of a movie is its soundtrack.
So I've begun trying to live my life with a soundtrack worthy of the happy ending I'm looking forward.
I'm thinking if I set up everything under my control to fall in line with an endearing indie film which speaks to the heart strings, then the things outside of my control must also fall in line, right? Circumstances succumb to peer pressure. I'm pretty sure.
So my beginning: Noah and the Whale.
If you want to feel like your real life is a beloved underground, underappreciated film where the male lead is Michael Cera, listen to this band. They are so charming in their naive authenticity. Bless them.
At this rate, I'm guessing H.B. ought to walk right back into my Starbucks some time in the next ... 10 months. Let's see.

If your life were a movie, what would your soundtrack be?

Friday, September 24, 2010

How Will He Find Me?

My life scenario right now:

Attractive British customer comes into Starbucks.
Orders Earl Grey tea.
Barista makes Earl Grey tea.
Barista falls for Attractive British customer.
Attractive British customer continues a pattern of Earl Grey teas from Starbucks.
Barista makes Earl Grey tea.
Barista falls for Attractive British customer.
And Again.
And Again.
Attractive British customer does not come into Starbucks at normal time.
Barista tries not to look for him.
Attractive British customer comes into Starbucks later than normal.
Barista is relieved.
Attractive British customer congratulates Barista on making it to Friday.
Barista's mind overheats and blows a fuse.
Barista stumbles over incoherent word fragments.
Barista attempts small talk.
Barista fails.
Attractive British customer receives Earl Grey tea.
Attractive British customer walks away.

Barista learns Attractive British customer is to return to homeland that very day.
Barista is heartbroken.
Barista replays the scene for the entire day.
Barista also remembers a sighting of Attractive British customer hesitating at the door to Starbucks the previous day.
Attractive British customer decided not to come in a second time.
Barista creates following scenario in mind:
Attractive British customer knew he was leaving today.
Attractive British customer was going to tell me something yesterday, but decided against it ... line too long.
Attractive British customer came in later than normal on last day.
Attractive British customer seemed disappointed when leaving Barista's register.
Attractive British customer returned to Starbucks on last day, but Barista was already gone.
Attractive British customer must have come in later than normal to try to have conversation with Barista, maybe line would be shorter, less busy, more time to talk.
Attractive British customer was disappointed when leaving Barista's register because no time to talk was had.
Attractive British customer made second attempt to say goodbye.
Attractive British customer was in love with Barista.
Barista is simultaneously despondent and encouraged/happy/relieved.

No joke. That's what I thought today. The past three weeks of my life have led up to today ... the day I should've confessed my undying love for HB (Hot Brit ... whose real name is David). And now, I'll never get the chance.

So, Casey. I'd like to make a long-distance dedication to the love of my life, David from England who worked at the Cleveland Clinic for a short time ... but long enough to win my heart. David, if you're out there listening, come back to Cleveland. To see you in line was what I came into work for, what I waited for every shift, and the chance that you might come in a second time kept me happy and hoping for the rest of my six hours. I promise I'm not a freak. Awkward, yes. Freak, no. You'd like me if we ever got the chance to talk about more than looking forward to Friday. Maybe even a lot.

How Will He Find Me?
The Weepies

If I don't stand out like a star among the moons
If I am always late and he always backs away too soon
I walk the world with a skin so thin
I can wear no adequate protection
Everything comes crashing in.
If I'm too wide open for this place
But not enough for him to recognize my face

How will he find me
With no one's arms to gather me together?
How will he find me?
Only held by gravity, faded with uncertainty
No longer young and not that pretty
How will he ever find me?

It never seems to matter, the tears I cry.
There's a well inside of me that never runs dry
From being born I guess, and born in life until we die.
The music and the hope for love keep me alive
Still I wonder, how will he find me?

And what shall I do with a drunken heart
With goggle eyes and the troubling hunger
Reaching forward to trick mirror men
Leaning out and in again.
If love is a game how can it be creation?
And if I'm wasting my time
How will he find me?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

One thing you'd leave said ...

So I read the book Gilead by Marilynne Robinson this month for the IAM Reader's Guild. I've already mentioned this. The book is essentially one long letter, novel-length, from an elderly pastor to his young son. He writes to share with his son all the wisdom and stories he wishes he were going to live to tell him, but knows that when the son is old enough to understand them, he himself will be long gone.
A few days after finishing, I had a revelation about revelations.
At this point in my life, if I were going to leave one piece of information to my offspring, here's what I'd say:
The revelation that Life really is beautiful will often strike you at seemingly random times; treasure those moments; take even just a brief second to revel in them before returning to your regular scheduled programming. It will seem almost as if everything has suddenly become very vivid color - almost glossy - where before it has been flat and matte. And it will strike for a very short period of time, and then the world will return to being matte. It doesn't make life any less beautiful. And you will try to hold on to those vivid moments, especially when the world becomes grayscale, but don't waste too much time or energy trying to hard, because you won't succeed as well as you'd like to. But you should still try. And when the world does become grey, try to remember the vivid colors so as not to lose one second of your Life on this Earth.

It's not infinitely practical, but in my life, right now, I find it exceedingly important to remember.

What would you say?

Friday, September 10, 2010

I knew this would happen

I knew if I didn't go home and write right away, I wouldn't remember what I wanted to say.
But I went to the party anyway. Because I wanted to be around people. And it was the right choice. It was very very good. But now I'm finally home, and after opening my mouth when I really should've kept it shut, I have nothing to say because I didn't go home and "open my mouth" and instead I kept it shut.
But basically, I live in Cleveland now. And I have been fighting this truth for a long time. I knew it was coming, but still, I tried to deny it. And I knew that eventually I was going to like it, but I tried to deny that, too. The good news is, it's been a week and I already like Cleveland. We had a rocky start, but nothing actually all that bad. Just exhausting.
Then tonight I went to a free dance showcase and there is just some plain old incredible stuff going on dance-wise in Cleveland. No joke. I was hugely hugely impressed.
Especially with Inlet Dance, which had been recommended to me and for which one of my new coworkers dances. Small world, eh?
The showcase in general, though. Top notch! I basically just smiled from ear to ear and actually found myself teary-eyed at all the beauty I saw.
It reminded me of the book I finished reading right before I went: Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. It's the IAM Reader's Guild book of the month this month. Just as I was leaving the house to go to the showcase, I underlined this line:
I think there must also be a prevenient courage that allows us to be brave -- that is, to acknowledge that there is more beauty than our eyes can bear, that precious things have been put into our hands and to do nothing to honor them is to do great harm.
(The bold and italics are mine.)

It also makes me think of the Ingrid Michaelson song "Are We There Yet?" My favorite point in the song is where she gets to the line "This is too much for me to hold."

I'm currently really enthralled with the idea of "too much." This idea that there is so much beyond what we see and experience, and that it is to much to ever experience it all. And that should be frustrating, but instead I find it invigorating and encouraging. And I know there's too much, but I can't seem to get enough, but it's okay, because I know there's more. And the idea of putting for effort into even just trying to tap into that which lies beyond.
And to a certain extent, I think we're created for that. We're created to desire more than what we know or even can know. Because we're created to desire God. And there's so much more to Him, because He is everything. Things thought of and things forgotten.

I'm rambling again. I should not be allowed to communicate or attempt to communicate after 10 p.m. I normally say 11. But truthfully, I think it's 10. Seriously. My brain starts shutting down at 10. And I should probably respect this pattern and allow my body to try to follow suit. It'd probably thank me for it.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Chosen vs. Choosing

What if the people who seem to have chosen you are not the ones you would have chosen?

Friday, August 20, 2010


Sometimes life seems to be no respecter of persons.

I'm sitting in Finland surrounded by the Halo Ensemble and have just received the crushing news that one of our friends, Jesse, who's letting us use his room and live in his apartment for two weeks, has been diagnosed with meningitis after three days of headaches. My nephew has suffered from this. My heart is broken and crushed and I'm scared for him.

At the same time, six of my great great friends are playing charades and laughing (and even making me laugh) ... because they don't know about what's going on with Jesse, yet.

What are we supposed to make of this life? How can we laugh while the world is suffering at the same time?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

My Current Short Story

All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.
Edmund Burke

Perhaps my life may be more of a set of short stories than a full-blown novel. So here's a little bit about the story I'm currently writing.

The world is getting smaller and smaller and as the world shrinks, or flattens as some economists refer to it, more and more people, especially of my generation, are able to experience more and varied cultures. I have had the opportunity to travel a great deal, thanks to the open minds (and wallets) of my parents, and a great deal to my profession. I am a professional musician and I am learning every day just how many doors music, high-quality music, can open that are generally closed ... like China.

Several of my friends and I have started and are in the midst of birthing an international conductorless chamber orchestra called The Halo Ensemble. Basically, young people who are classically-trained musicians from around the world (i.e. Switzerland, Finland, Scotland, Canada, U.S.A., & Austria) are gathering together and playing concerts without a conductor. For those of us that are in the Church, it can seem like a very shallow calling compared to say ... full-time missionaries in Africa, but we feel our souls very much alive in this venture. And souls which are alive are the best flame to enlighten other souls through the Spirit.

Last summer our story setting was in Finland, among other places - a country plagued by apathy. We saw and heard through our concerts souls which had been shrouded by clouds of darkness, doubt, apathy, disbelief having the veils lifted and beginning to dare to feel the full weight of God's love on them. This summer we have returned to Finland to see how those hearts are faring, and to see what else God will do for them in our playing.

Our story is one of magic and mundane. We are nothing particularly special as individuals and we are doing nothing particularly extraordinary. I am reminded of Mother Theresa saying
There are no extraordinary acts; only ordinary acts done with extraordinary love.
And that's all we have to offer: extraordinary love, because it comes from Christ, the author and perfecter of faith and love.

But as a founding member of the ensemble, I know we have a great story of God's Grace to tell, in and through our ensemble. I love thinking about what other stories I could hear and tell at a conference like Donald Miller's. Being able to share that unadulterated time with other motivated people filled with extraordinary love, hearing their stories, sharing the stories of the Halo Ensemble, seeing how our stories overlap or how we can speak into each other's stories ... I can't really fathom what would come of it, but I imagine marvelous things. To hear Don's stories of starting and sticking with The Mentoring Project, can encourage and direct the path of this story I'm in now.

In Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, she says
There are probably a number of ways to tell your story right, and someone else may be able to tell you whether or not you've found one of these ways.
I envision this happening at the Living a Better Story seminar.

Here's a short video from Donald Miller about the seminar:

Living a Better Story Seminar from All Things Converge Podcast on Vimeo.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Cleveland Stories

There are a few things that have been on my mind almost constantly as of late:
-- my move to Cleveland
-- Donald Miller's book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years
-- Commonway church's sermon series on story
And I'm beginning to come to a point where I can see all three of these things overlapping, as so many things in life are want to do, right?

So here's what I'm starting to think:
-- If I am the protagonist in my own story (as The Holiday points out)
-- And the elements that make a good story make a good life
-- And that one of the elements of a good story is character: character development, strong character and a character who wants something, worthy of wanting and obtaining through conflict
-- And if one of the reasons I'm moving to Cleveland is because my protagonist (me) has not been going down a path leading to the character she (I) wants to be and it would be foolish to think the other elements, like setting, could stay the same but the character would develop differently. I mean, that's counter to the laws of physics and nature, right?
-- Then perhaps now is one of those points of a story where something changes in the story; perhaps now is the time to tell a different story or take my current story to a different depth or change my perspective

So how do I do this? Or what will this look like?
That's sort of what's been consuming my thoughts these days and here are a couple of really practical small steps:
-- attend Donald Miller's seminar in Portland about living a story worth telling
-- take a few classes to work towards a M.A. in English (Creative Writing) at Cleveland State University, taking about one class a semester starting after the New Year

Of course, the seminar is really expensive and the classes are not so cheap either, I guess ... school never is. Sooo, you may have to sit through a few trial blog posts, but I'm going to enter a competition to just win a trip to the seminar. Seems cheap enough to me, right?

On another note, or two:
I had a delightful day sitting with one of my coworkers and talking about music
And my next musical recommendation is: LCD Soundsystem. They're pretty silly, but brought me a lot of joy on my bike ride today.
Also: I just saw a Mercedes-Benz commercial that sounded like Arcade Fire takes on Beethoven Symphony No. 9

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The War Without

Anyone who tells you that I am a good person is a big fat liar. I am NOT a good person and I have been learning this my whole life in numerous ways. And this week I have learned that I am ... a murderer.

There is always a war going on within me, I think. Paul talks about in in Scripture, the war between the flesh and the Spirit. But this week, it has been the war without. As in outside of me. I have done nothing but kill things, most notably: ants, spiders and crickets.

On Monday I started to eat a sandwich and it tasted like crap, so I figured the meat was probably old and I shouldn't eat it anymore, so I threw it away. I thought it was an awesome idea. So did all of the ants which heard the trumpet call of the stale bread hitting the trash bag. Tuesday I went to throw something away and opened the door under the sink to do so, only to discover the area under my sink was the Ritz-Carlton for ants. Dozens of ants had moved in and made themselves quite at home. The darkness was alive. With two antennae and six legs each. Things in large numbers really really freak me out. It doesn't matter how small the individual things are, if there are lots of them, or if I keep finding them like they won't die, I panic. This is one of my irrational fears. So I panicked. I didn't know what to do! I closed the door and sat down and tried to take deep breaths and cursed myself for not putting the trash bag in the outside trash can.
Then I went to the laundry room, took out the Windex and put on some shoes. Then with a wild war cry, I opened the door under the sink and yanked out the trash can, proceeding to spill its contents and residents onto the kitchen floor. Badly done! I quickly tried to stand the trash can back up, using only my fingernails, to give the ants as little surface area as possible over which to climb and take possession of the rest of my body. I proceeded to spray Windex everywhere. Anytime I saw anything moving or a little bit black, I sprayed it. Black lint? Sprayed. Brown piece of paper moving with the wind of the fan? Sprayed. Ant? Sprayed. My theory was this would kill the ants. And in fact, enough Windex does kill an ant. But mostly it stuns them. It was good enough. If I could stun them long enough to a. stomp them to death or b. throw the can into the trash outside, I would consider myself successful.
And successful I was, but not without feeling simultaneously victorious and shameful for just re-enacting moment by moment a scene from some chick flick romantic comedy bound to come out in the next fifteen years.

Yesterday, I got ready to climb into my shower and found myself about to share the space and peaceful moments of rejuvination with a large black spider. Most spiders I don't mind and I have been known to leave a spider alone when discovering him in that very same shower. I'm lazy and try to be considerate. But spiders this big and this black cannot be ignored. I tried to scare him off into disappearance with a few sprays of water - out of sight, out of mind. But the bugger (pardon the pun) just wouldn't have it. Gallant thing he was. I tried to drown him by just tossing handfuls of water in his direction. A few direct hits, and several times I swore I had won, and just as I breathed that sigh of relief and turned the water off, he sprang back to life, all eight of his limbs reanimated and began scrambling around again ... but not to hide, to reassert his dominion in that white porcelain land. That was it. The gauntlet had really been thrown now. No mercy. Finally I turned the tub on full blast and began to fill it like I was going to take a bath. He stopped struggling and seemed to curl into the ball I had seen so many times in the last three minutes. I wasn't falling for that trick again. I let it fill a little further, probably until it was an inch of water. Then I was nearly satisfied. I turned off the water and began to let it drain out. And I towered over that land that once was his and watched that king literally circle the drain. He was so big, he couldn't fit through the holes in the drain. So I pounded him with the shower a few times and broke his body into pieces that could fit. No funeral for him. A massacre. Without respect.

Then this morning at Starbucks, I reenacted the great Bathtub Battle of 2010 in the sinks and around the counters of the store, but in smaller scale. I had to have killed half a dozen crickets. They just kept coming back! Those suckers are freaking invincible! I used to love crickets because they're musical and rub their legs together to sing little songs, like a tiny street corner violinist. But not after today. Today their souls are as dark as their skin and I have waged a righteous war on their whole civilization. They will be destroyed.

No. I am not a good person. I am a ruthless insect killer. Beware. If you're a bug.

Sunday, August 1, 2010


First off, let me say ... "growth" as a noun is one of my least favorite words ever. It distresses me greatly. Ew. Growth. Gross.

Now that that's out of the way, shall we continue?

What is this business of growing exactly?
I feel like I can say I've grown significantly over the past year. Not physically. Sadly, that phase is over and done. But emotionally, spiritually, personally. I feel more stable. More well-rounded. More ... boring? Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe I just have a different definition of fun now. We speak of growing and growth and having grown, but what exactly does that mean? How do we do it? How can we measure it?
How do I know I've grown? Beats me! I haven't the foggiest idea. I haven't necessarily done anything to encourage growth. I haven't stood outside in sunshine and rain alternately. I haven't taken any extra spiritual vitamins. I don't know that my decision-making has necessarily changed all that much, but I do think that decisions are indicative of the growing process. But what about decision-making indicated having grown? The speed with which you make them? The accuracy? The appropriate weight, whatever that means?
What else indicates growth? How well you sleep? How much you read Scripture? How many people like you? How often or seldom you offend people?

What is this thing called growth? And how do we access it? Should we even access it?

Just something I was thinking about at work tonight.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Exchange of Ideas

I have the gift of having a handful of friends gathered at my house for the next few days prior to another friend's wedding. These friends are so thoughtful and intelligent, it shames me. And they have spent the last thirty minutes or so engaging in the exchange of ideas. I have not offered much of anything to the conversation, but I have listened and taken it in and been pondering. Not because I am more thoughtful, but because I am insecure about the things which happen in my head. I've realized that I would not have done well in the age of antiquity in the great Greek debates with Plato, Aristotle, etc. etc. all the great thinkers. I would have loved to just sit around and soak it all in, but I'm not sure the teachers would have let me get away with it, at some point they would have drawn me into conversation and then I would have choked on my insecurity and died.
I enjoy reading and writing ideas, but I do not so much enjoy speaking them. Well, I do. Just not when someone counters them. Which, you know, puts debate to bed quite quickly. I think I like reading and writing because it allows me to keep the ideas to myself, where they are safe. At least to me. They could be incomplete or even wrong, but they're safe and apparently in my own personal economy, safety and comfort are more valuable than truth. Which is a curious discovery, seeing as I value honesty and authenticity among the chief qualities of a person.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Poor Choices

For being a person who notoriously says "Make Good Choices!" the title and subject of this post is pretty funny.

I have a friend who feels that she needs to take an action which I consider to be a poor choice. Not because I'm judging or whatever, but because I myself in my past life have felt the need to take the very same action and have regretted it ... every. single. time. Now, I do not feel that I have the right really to tell this friend that this choice is not-the-best because we're new friends. And she says she felt God leading her to take this action yesterday, but she didn't do it. And she says she feels it's something she needs to do for herself. But it's not going to go well. Not going to go well at all.

So I think to myself, if I were in that position and I took this action, feeling God was leading me to it, or okay-ing it at the very least, and it didn't go well, what would I think or do?
You know what I would think?
"WHY?! Why God, did you tell me or let me do this thing when it was clearly such a poor choice? Why did you lead me into a poor choice?"
And then I think, God would not lead me into a poor choice ... or would He?
Then I remember briefly that line from the Lord's prayer ... "And lead us not into temptation" ... although that's not necessarily what I think that means, but it's there ... nonetheless.

God can be a tricky little one (i.e. outsmarts me all the time). And I wonder if this is a thing my friend needs to do to learn a lesson about trusting Him or about His character and His provision. And maybe this is the most effective way for her to learn this lesson, or an important step in the process.

And now I wonder how many poor choices God has actually led me into or allowed me to make in order that I may learn lessons it would have taken me years or longer to learn.

What about you?

*Author's note: The poor choice is only destruction to the ego and one's pride. Not to the physical body.*
*Also note: My roommate made several poor, but appropriate, choices today ... as in, three servings of ice cream and no actual food.*

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


The harder I work, the more exhausted I become. The more I praise the LORD, dwelling on His works that His hands have made - His people, His land, His trees, His music, His canvas full of color and sound and light - the more refreshed I become. Essentially, the less work I do, the more I am refreshed. But it is neither easy nor nothing to praise the LORD. One must put aside all other earthly thoughts and cares and, wavering at first, seek the LORD in all His glory. Sometimes in the darkest places. But what is the depths of darkness to Him who is Light? Wherever we go, there shall be light, for when we rest in God, He has prmised us Himself to go with us - never to forsake or leave us. Never. No matter the darkness - small or big - the author and creator of Light and its essence will hem us in - before, behind, beside.
Before. Behind. Beside.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Beautiful Mess

I am not one, but there are some people who are so full of Christ and the presence of the LORD that it cannot be contained within their bodies, within themselves and it spills out, this glorious outpouring - in music, in song, in words, in movement, in color. And it is a beautiful mess. It is a fearsome thing to behold. Humbling, penetrating, awful and awesome. To those who trust in the LORD, it is refreshing and exhausting and fearsome. To those who hide from Him it is crushing, exposing - ripping away their insecurities. But there are none that are neutral or unaffected because it is the Truth of who God Himself is and that cannot be escaped. God will not be ignored. Every knee will bow in that day. Some will plead for mercy, some will have faces that shine. None shall be silent and all shall be silent.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Melts in your Hand, Not in your Mouth

I'd like some M&Ms to go with my own hard outer shell ... of cynicism. It seems that I have developed a little bit of an exoskeleton of cynicism, satire and critique. I think I have had a propensity for this since middle school, perhaps, or early high school. And that is not all bad, but to walk the satirical line is to walk a very fine line between entertaining and enraging. You see, I was reading this article which talks about the difference between cynicism and satire ... quite effectively, I might add.
For a person who spends so much time watching Jane Austen and chick flicks, I'm not sure how I've become so bitter, but I have. And now my women's group is doing a Beth Moore study about God's promises. I just did two days of the study at once (which is a lot) because I'm a slacker and because of the course of events recently, God has been breaking my heard over my pride, self-righteousness and disbelief in His promises. This study for me stuck a deep point. And I'm excited to talk it over with the women tonight and expound upon some of these ideas.
My only consolation, and it is not a good one, is that I am not the only one struggling with this. I am blessed with very good and honest friends who are open about their own struggles as I am with them. And we have been talking about how best to handle this bent toward the bitter that we seem to be taking. Isn't it sad that my consolation isn't in the faithfulness of God despite my own lack, or of His forgiveness of all my sins, that this disbelief in particular won't be held against me? No, my consolation is that other people are as terrible as I am. (Not that I think of my friends as terrible, just myself.)
So anyway, we haven't come up with a lot of practical solutions to this issue, but we have decided that being aware of it is a significant step and that we will try to encourage each other toward a positive manner.
But what about you? Do you struggle with this too? What do you recommend?
I've heard starting the day with smiling, and it's small, but I'm going to give it a go ... in good faith.
If I were an M&M, I'd probably be the green one because green is associated with jealousy, and that somehow seems appropriate. The difference between that hard candy shell and mine is that theirs tastes delicious and mine tastes ... well, bitter.

Monday, May 24, 2010

A Review: I Am Hutterite

I have joined a program called BookSneeze where a publishing company gives me a selection of books from which to choose, I pick one, read it and write a review, to be published on my blog and a major retailers website. Then it happens all over again. So. Here is my very first review. Oh joy!

Mary-Ann Kirby’s book I Am Hutterite is an awkward but occasionally endearing look into a community most have never even heard of, much less know anything about. I was definitely among the ignorant prior to reading the book, and anyone I’ve talked to since has also been in that category. The Hutterites are a community of exiles from Europe/Russia to the United States and Canada in the late eighteenth-centry. Though not a completely isolated commune, the Hutterites pride themselves on a distance from worldly ways and with an affinity for hard work, routine, structure and community. Kirby’s first-hand knowledge of the life of Hutterite colonies is a treat for readers and the authenticity of what she has to share is clear. Sometimes, however, that authenticity also gets in the way of the delivery. The narrative is generally dry and matter-of-fact and frequently boring. But there are enough touches of humor and sparks of brilliance that make the book feel less like a waste-of-time and more like an education. The book varies in tone from a young girl’s diary to a light history book to a language lesson as Kirby inserts Hutterisch (the language of the Hutterites, a variation on high German) with inconsistent and awkward English translations. She does, however, include a lexicon in the back of the book. Despite its faults, it is still an honest and unique look at a way of life vastly foreign to the majority of the Western world. I am not entirely sorry I read it and I would recommend it to a friend interested in this sort of writing.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Awake My Soul

Awake My Soul

How fickle my heart and how woozy my eyes
I struggle to find any truth in your lies
And now my heart stumbles on things I don't know
This weakness I feel I must finally show

Lend me your hand and we'll conquer them all
But lend me your heart and I'll just let you fall
Lend me your eyes, I can change what you see
But your soul you must keep totally free

Awake my soul, awake my soul
For you were made to meet your maker

Friday, April 30, 2010

Animation vs. Live Action

No, this is not a debate about the merits of animation or live action films. Or about adaptations of books. Or anything as deeply intellectual as that.

Here's the question:

Why is animation so lovable? Why are animated characters so much more lovable than real people sometimes?

I'm watching Wall•E right now. And I'm about 8 or so minutes in and he's absolutely adorable! And he's 1. a robot and 2. animated. Very words have even been said so far, and yet you feel this deep connection with this character that's been created. I mean ... you even like the animated cockroach! For goodness sake.

What is it about animation that makes it immediately more accessible than live action? Is it because we watch films to escape and animation, being not real, allows us full escape? Is it because we have complete control over how animation appears because we ourselves are the creators and controllers of it? We control the virtues and flaws of the animated characters, so we accentuate those said virtues and minimize the flaws? And there have to be flaws. If there aren't flaws than we can't identify with said character at all and there is no catharsis or connection I think.

Is it because something about animation reminds us of our childhood, which we long to access and free? Is it because animation comes from the human imagination, which, as it turns out is one of the most beautiful things in all of God's creation?

Generally I've found recently that the movies I feel most guilty about watching are romantic comedies (maybe appropriately so). And sometimes I long for my life to be most like the lives of the characters in those films. But the films which really affect me and which I'll watch over and over again and will relate to most, those are the animated ones. And maybe it's just because I live in a time of really high-class, high-quality animation films ... especially from Pixar. Whatever or whyever, I love animated movies.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Twitter Made Me Do It

I was just on Twitter and saw that "#Dearsomeone" was a trending topic on Twitter. That means a lot of people are using that phrase in their thoughts. So I read a few of them. And now I feel like I've been let into a secret room that's normally kept carefully guarded. This leads to two thoughts.

1. There is a lot of heartbreak in this world. And suddenly I felt very much not alone. Sometimes we need to be reminded that we are not the only people to have broken hearts. Not because we need to belittle our brokenness, but I think in order to fully heal, we need to dwell in and acknowledge the heartbreak. It's part of this world we live in. It's part of now. It's part of the moment. It's part of the life. Just as much as sunshine is. And in order to really feel and acknowledge it, we need to know we're not alone. That there is no shame in experiencing heartbreak. And. That other people seem to have survived it. So we probably will too. There is hope in heartbreak ... but only in community. Even Twitter community.

Which leads to the second thought.

2. I feel like I know these people. I frequently experience this. Especially with Relevant Magazine. I follow their Twitter feed. I listen to their podcast. I subscribe to their magazine. I respond to some of their questions. And sometimes I get a response back. And I have found myself before in conversation referencing something I heard a staff member say as something "my friend" said. Then I catch myself. This is especially embarrassing when I'm talking to one of my actual friends who is also actually friends with a few of the Relevant staff members. But what is this virtual community doing to us and our minds and our actual sense of community and knowing and being known. I know this is a common and very popular comment ground. But what do you think?

What do you make of this virtual community we have?


Because I went to NCSA and I watched movies there, I've learned to always sit through the credits and acknowledge all the people who worked to make the film happen. If a single one of them was missing, the movie would not be. So I try to read the acknowledgments of a book, too - especially if I like the author. So I read the thanks in Donald Miller's book and now I want to be one of those people mentioned - maybe in his book, maybe in someone else's, maybe just in someone's life. I would like to be thanked for helping someone finish a project, realize a dream, obtain a goal and not merely stand by.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Chicago: 14, Cleveland: 15

Well, I've been debating for a long time now. Weighing my options trying to decide where to move in the fall, after all the adventures of the Halo Ensemble in Europe have come to a close. Chicago is where my heart is and looks like where Halo will be ... eventually. But when it came down to it, Cleveland made the most sense and has the most to offer for me. So I'm going to keep playing in the Erie Philharmonic (if they'll keep me) and I'll keep working at Starbucks (if they'll let me transfer) and I'm going to try to save money, pay off more of my student loans and credit card bills and get an English horn, etc etc. And I'm going to do it all in ... Cleveland. Let the new chapter begin! Cleveland's a little bit like my own personal Ninevah, and I can't say I feel particularly called there, but it does seem that I am most set-up for life there. So here goes. I don't want to be eaten by a big fish, even if I do get spit back up eventually. I can't imagine how many showers I'd have to take to wash that stench off.

Sunday, April 25, 2010


I've made a very interesting discovery this week. I am poor. I mean, really. Like according to America, I live below the poverty line. But I don't feel poor! Isn't that great? I know, weird thing to rejoice about, but it makes me feel a lot better. I have always thought I've been moderately good with my money, but things have been getting tighter and tighter these days and I thought it was because I've been irresponsible. And it's true, there are some unnecessary purchases that I've made. But the truth is ... I'm just poor! Luckily, I have very supportive, very kind parents, who let me live in their beautiful home rent-free and who let me drive their nice car when I have to go long distances and who let me eat all their food. Hence not feeling poor. And there's a big announcement coming up tomorrow that will also relate to this topic, but man. It's a relief to know I'm not as irresponsible as I've been thinking! But I still keep offending people and saying the wrong things, apparently. Still have to work on that ...

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The thing about Ugly Betty ...

... and Pride & Prejudice
... and probably many, if not most, other girlie stories. I think it's less about the man being initially not-attracted and then an attachment forming (i.e. Daniel & Betty, Lizzie & Darcy) and less about changing minds, and more about actually changing. Daniel was promiscuous and shallow. Betty was uptight and unfashionable. But through Betty's continual good influence, Daniel deepens and softens, but strengthens. And comes find himself genuinely caring for someone (Betty, of course!). And Betty changes, too. Becoming bolder and more aware, but still true to herself. And Darcy was prideful and filled with disdain, but because of Lizzie changed. And Lizzie was prejudice and quick to judge, but later acknowledges her judgments to have been wrong. (Interestingly enough, the things she was most wrong about were related to her. How often does that happen to us? We can see other people's situations so much more clearly than our own. And it probably ought to be the other way around.)
We want to be a force for good, I think. So we're drawn to stories where the characters are flawed, but in the same way/degree we're flawed (so we can identify with them), but who manage to positively affect someone else's life.
It was important that Daniel end up the way he did. It was a sort of redemption. And we need stories of redemption. We need to know both 1. we can change and 2. we can affect change. Especially by wholly ourselves -- like Betty.
It is significant that neither case set out to change the other, but it was a natural process -- there was something intrinsically attractive about the nature of the other person that drew the other person into their life and their way ... each slowly transforming the other.
Given the option between love at first sight and this slow transformation, I think I'd choose the latter. There is something very romantic about love at first sight, but something more enduring about the metamorphosis -- more organic, more secure, more lasting and deeper ... but I think this is only to me, or at least, not for everyone.

As a side note, I was at work today and overheard the mother of a girl I've know for years saying her daughter had receive a fullbright, etc. etc. "my daughter's so awesome" sort of things, but with such an air of nonchalance that it was even more annoying like "of course my daughter received a fullbright ... she's brilliant and my daughter! She got that brilliance from somewhere, you know?" Anyway, I found myself judgmental and annoyed (in case you didn't pick up on that) and then I wanted to go get a fullbright. I mean, I've wanted to get a fullbright for a long time anyway, and have looked into the process several times, but have found other things to do, other ways to live. And that ought to be fine. I mean, I have a job in an orchestra! And am a founding member of an exciting new musical venture! Beat that. But still, I feel the need to prove to that mother and that daughter that I'm just as smart as she is. That I can be smart, too. But I know I'm smart. (Not to brag.) And I've been the places she's been before. (Again, not to brag.) And my story is just a different story and my journey has a different path. Not better or worse. Just. Different. But still ... Grr ...

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Old War Stories

I'm reading through the Bible chronologically with my friend Julie. She lives in Austria right now. Isn't that fun?! We're reading the Bible together, even though we live very VERY far apart on a regular basis. Anyway. Right now I'm reading about David and his life and adventures as a rogue soldier. Did you realize he's kind of like the original Robin Hood? Running away from the king? An outlaw? Robbing from the rich to give to the poor? It's great! Anyway. So I'm reading through 2 Samuel and 1 Chronicles today. Super exciting right? Actually ... yeah! I was reading these stories of David's Mighty Men and began to hear them in the same voice that you hear veteran's talk about the battles they were a part of. I realized ... war stories! These are just old war stories. Told by these old men who shared these experiences together. I mean, obviously they're IMPORTANT war stories, but still ... they're just old war stories. Isn't it great? Can't you just imagine these old men writing down these stories going ... "remember that time Benaiah chased that lion down into a pit and killed it even though it was snowing and icy?" or "what about that time the whole army chickened out and Eleazar and I were the only ones who would fight the Philistines and God gave us victory anyway?" The Old Testament takes on a different light when you remember that people are people ... even Old Testament people ... and that people have always been people. They're just stories. Some about war. Some about love. All about life.

Monday, April 19, 2010

To Finish or Not To Finish

Related to the last post and Amy's thoughtful and honest commentary, I got to thinking.

I am reading a book right now called Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry. It's pretty marvelous. I'm really enjoying it. Even so, I find myself flipping to the back page and calculating how many pages I have left to read until it's finished. If I read x number of pages per day, it will take me y days to finish. Could I finish it today? And yet, I really like the book! So why am I looking to the back to see how soon it will be over? Why am I even reading? Is it only to check it off my to-do list too? Is this typical of our get-it-done culture? Maybe my generation, or my part of the generation ... the culturally-aware Christian group who tries to simultaneously simplify their lifestyle and increase their impact ... has moved on from trying to accumulate stuff to trying to accumulate accomplishments. It's not about how much you attain, but how much you achieve, how much you can check off your to-do list. Even how many stories you have to tell. Stories are great, but maybe we're meant to live them, not tell them?

I'm thinking about starting something that I know I won't be able to finish, something that will last my lifetime and maybe beyond. A lot of those things are already involved in my life. You know, being part of a family, creating a family (well, I haven't gotten quite there), being a Christian, being a musician, etc. etc. But what if I intentionally pursued something that I could never finish, never check off my to-do list. What if I couldn't even put it on my to-do list?

Any suggestions?

To Do Lists

It's Monday and I've had a rather productive day thus far. But my productivity seems to have slowed to a near stop. And I just realized that I will never get everything done until I die. I'm never going to be able to accomplish everything on my "to do" list and then be finished with those lists forever. This depresses me a little and threatens to extinguish completely what little drive remains in today. What do you do with this thought?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Questions and Conversations

I just finished reading Donald Miller's A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. It's been a much longer process than I would've liked - because I allowed myself to read only one chapter per day. But I'm so glad I took the time. I didn't want to miss anything and even though I'm sure there are things I've already forgotten, I'm equally sure there are lessons that have sunk deep into me - through my skin and into my marrow - waiting and working to change me. But to say a book changed me (even one of Donald Miller's books) is false and unfair. It is unfair pressure on the book and the author; it is unfair simplicity ascribed to my divinely complex personhood. A book cannot change me. Only I can change me. And yet, even as I type that, I know it is untrue. I want it to be true, but it's not. I can feel God tapping me on the shoulder, forcing me to turn around and sigh. Because not even I can do that. Only God can change me. He is the only one who knows my true capacity. My desires, my potential and how to realize them. He is the only one who can sort through my complexities and make sense of it all. But a book can make me think, and ask questions and start conversations. So may I begin these conversations with God about "what happens now?" and "what if?"

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Following a Fast

Now that Lent has ended and we are a full week into the Easter season, I thought I would write a post about my response to my experience these last 7 weeks.
I honestly had no idea what I was expecting out of this Lenten season, and I didn't really have any idea even why I entered into it in the first place. If I'm completely honest and spent some time evaluating my past experiences, I think the times I've had no idea what to expect have blown me away far more than times when I've had expectations .... even if they're low. I was reading in A Million Miles that Denmark is the happiest nation in the world. Because they have low expectations. This has been my philosophy for a long time, that if I have low expectations, then they are either met or exceeded. However, if I have no expectations, it still leaves room for surprise.
So Lent.
Week one = excited about the challenge; even grocery shopping because a life experience; filled with intention and unity with the Israelites (who aren't even involved with Lent)
Week two = accidental cheating, but grace for myself abounded, still excited, but a little less time and will to experiment with new recipes
Week three = becoming more difficult, life gets to be more stressful, or seems that way
Week four = A little better, but still hard. Body has really started rebelling. Lots of sleeping, lots of other parts breaking down and malfunctioning.
Week five = Ready to completely throw in the towel by Saturday (community kept me going. I was moments from quitting completely, but my small group encouraged me to make it the last couple of weeks and found things for me to eat)
Week six = Surviving day by day. Experimenting almost completely ended. Generally not eating or eating the same thing (pasta plain or with pesto) every day. However, the week is marked by a point of brokenness at the Lord's hand. Would I have heard His voice so clearly or so poignantly if I had not been carefully breaking down my physical dependencies through the previous five weeks? Don't think so.
Week seven = Not willing to go out with a bang, trying just to make it through. I really wanted to finish über successful, including a complete fast from everything but water from Good Friday service until Easter. Gave up at dinner on Saturday ... too isolated, too hungry, too irritable. Everyone was suffering, me probably least of all. That's sort of the opposite of the point.

At Easter, it was glorious! Everyone asked me if I just completely feasted and went crazy. But I've been long enough in church to know that that is the best way to make yourself sick after fasting. My stomach had literally grown probably a full size smaller, so even eating my fill of meat was significantly less than it had been. I tried to carefully work myself back into eating my normal diet. But the feast itself wasn't the point, it was the option to feast that was the point. It was knowing I was free. Free to eat anything I wanted. Free to listen to anything I wanted. Free to do anything at all. The metaphor is clear. Christ died to set us free. And Paul says should we sin more so we can be forgiven more? Just because I'm free from my fast, should I eat the whole angel food cake myself? No! I will still get a stomach ache. Just because I'm free from the consequences of sin, should I sleep with every man I desire? No! I will still do serious damage to my body and my spirit.

Now that I've been fast free for a week, I miss it a little already. I eat way more frequently, which Americans will probably say is good, but honestly, it's not necessarily. I eat now because I can and because it's there, not because I actually need it. It's surprising to me that it's only taken a week for me to get back to this point. I will miss the physical plus of losing weight because of the fast, although that was not the point or even a consideration when I chose this fast, or it chose me. I also miss the intention I had. I still feel somehow guilty when I listen to non-Christian music, like I'm still cheating on my fast, like I should still be choosing to listen to my "normal" music. Like I was visiting friends in California for seven weeks and when I return to Indiana, I feel as if I should still be calling my friends in California every day. Although, music is not people and you don't have a relationship with its soul the way you do with peoples'.

Anyway. I am now beginning to wonder how to balance these two extreme worlds - 40 days of very strict fasting with a lifetime of American excess. Where is the balance? I'd like to say I can listen to my body and it will tell me, but I don't think I can trust it. I think it needs some rules, not strict ones, just some boundaries to prevent excess. The balance between two worlds, isn't that really where much of this life is spent?

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Best Birthday Ever

My birthday was this past week. It was not the best birthday ever, although it was very pleasant.
The best birthday ever ... that I can remember ... was my 20th birthday and here's why:


Yup. My sophomore year of college, I had my own room on the same floor as my best friends'. I, being from a small town in Indiana and then living in the South, never locked my door. Seriously. If something got stolen (which it never did for real), I was going to be okay with that. And sometimes people needed things that I had when I was not around, so I just left my door unlocked. Of course, that is bound to lead to unexpected discoveries and practical jokes. More than once I returned to my room after class and opened the door to find Cary-from-down-the-hall asleep in the papasan chair. And whenever I would see that, I would smile and quietly close the door, puttering down to another friend's room. That was why I left my door unlocked. Cary needed a place that was clean and quiet ... a place to rest and retreat ... and I could offer that.

So on my 20th birthday, I went to class. And when I came back from class, I opened my door to find a veritable daisy explosion before my eyes. There had to be no less that two dozen vases of assorted shapes and sizes filled with handfuls of daisies. There were some actual vases and several makeshift ones as well ... emptied bottles of water, mostly.

Daisies are my very favorite flower. They are commonplace, unassuming, and yet, beautiful. I dare you not to smile when you come across daisies. [I don't actually dare you to do that, because if you happen to be able to, which is I'm sure possible, then 1. I lose and 2. that's really sad.] And there they were, everywhere I looked there was a vase of daisies clearly visible. There were so many vases that even a week later, I was still discovering new ones.

It's pretty simple. No rock climbing, or death defying, or expensive shopping trips. But I really felt loved that day, that moment, when I walked into my room and was greeted by a visible expression of my friends' care for me. They weren't even there when I found it, but they were at the same time. In each of those flowers, telling me a story of joy and leaving me a message of love.

Sometimes I forget that story, but I hope I keep remembering it at just the right time, so I remember how important life is. And how great people can be.

"I know the heart of Life is good."
-John Mayer

Friday, April 2, 2010

Good Friday and Children

I just finished with a Good Friday service at my church. It was a Stations of the Cross experience. There were five stations, each accompanied by a portion of the crucifixion story of Christ, a reflection and an action of response. It was good. Very good. While I was going through the Stations, my visits lined up with a mother and her three daughters. The oldest was probably 13. The youngest, probably ... 7? I'm really terrible at guessing age. And weight. Those carnival guys win big on me every time. Anyway. One of the stations pointed specifically to the brokenness in the world, for which Jesus died. It was a flash movie filled with tragic images from the world - natural disasters, the holocaust, starvation, abandonment, massacres, accidents, explosions. It was pretty ... dark. And this mother stood with her three young daughters and watched it and reflected on it. And that was amazing to me. At first, I didn't really think anything of it. But then it hit me as they walked away ... it seems so strange to take children to a Good Friday service. Almost bad parenting, and borderline extreme/brainwashing. But I admire those parents. This world is broken. And though it's true that we don't want our children to experience any more of that brokenness and pain than we have to, although we want to shield them as much as we can, want to bear the weight of it for them, we cannot. They will encounter the reality of this world the second they step out the front door. There is no shield, there is no protection. But to enter into that pain with your children. To acknowledge it. To recognize it. Is somehow to take away its power. It's still horrible, but the brokenness of the world does not have to become your brokenness.
I do not particularly want to have children, or if I do have them ever, I'd rather adopt them at an older age -- where no one else wants them, where they're almost beyond help. Part of why i don't want to have them is that I don't want to break them. But I'm learning, from my friends who have children, that kids are resilient and much stronger than I'm inclined to think. Madeleine L'Engle, of A Wrinkle in Time fame, has a quote that says something like "If you have something important to say, put it in a book. It it's really important, put it in a children's book." There is something in a child's spirit that can endure so much more than adults can, I think. They are not tired. They have not been disillusioned. Their imaginations (and therefore their hope for something better) are still fully intact and functioning at optimum levels.
And no one really knows how to raise them, children. But somehow, we all have gotten to be adults, who are, and we're none the worse for the wear. We all have problems and we all have victories.
I hope that mother and father go home with their children and talk about what they thought about, what they saw, and the hope that we have through it. Perhaps it is bad parenting to expose young children to that pain without the hope of redemption, but because we have Christ, because we have Hope and because that does not HAVE to be the end of our lives, I think it is beautiful and right and strong and hard.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Life and Movies

As you know, I'm a fan of Donald Miller's and at some point in the past couple of days he's suggested (not personally) that I try writing a scene from my life, because 1. our life is a story made up of memorable scenes and 2. writers should write every day, like musicians should practice. Now, I don't consider myself a writer, but I do like to write.
So I've been wracking my brain to come up with a memorable scene for me to write about. And I can't come up with anything. All I come up with are intensely boring or painful scenes ... neither one do i want to write about. And the ones I do come up with that I could write about are not more like something out of a movie.
And that got me thinking. Why do we so frequently refer to events of our lives as "just like a movie"? Why don't we ever watch movies and say with the same sort of fondness "that's just like real life"? What's wrong with real life? Okay, so I know what's wrong with real life. People say mean things to and about each other. People hurt each other. We get disappointed. I get it. But sometimes life is all right. Just the way it is. It doesn't need to be like a movie.

But with that said, I'm watching Driving Miss Daisy right now. I've tried to watch this movie/play so many times through my life, but have never been able to get all the way through it. But watching this movie now makes me understand my grandmother a little bit more. My mom's mom, that is. I think she and Miss Daisy have quite a bit in common. Quite a bit. I wonder if I'll interact with her any differently after seeing this.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Family Stories

I had breakfast with my uncle and grandmother the other morning. It was a mix of delightful and annoying ... as interactions with families tend to be. But it was a lot more delightful than it was annoying. I got to hear a lot of stories I'd never heard before and learn a little bit more about my uncle, grandmother and grandfather. The whole experience reminded me of a project I once wanted to do. It renewed my desire to pursue this project. I would like to take an entire year and drive around the country, living with family members and collecting stories about their lives. Hearing things they remember, especially as it pertains to my grandmother and grandfather on my dad's side. Just in the one hour I spent with one uncle and my grandmother I heard at least three new stories. I know my cousins all have something to share, and we seem to be a family of storytellers.
I have, as you know, been reading a lot of Donald Miller lately and his book, along with his blog, ar encouraging me to try to figure out a way to do this.
Anybody have any ideas of grants I can try to get for this little project of mine?
I have some other, not-expensive ideas for something similar as well. For example, a family collective National Novel Writing Project with each arm of the family being assigned to about 1200 words of story from family life. It would be less expensive and less work for me, but more work for my family and would be great for their own growth, but I would be less a part of the process ... although we'd still get to read each other's stories. I've thought about also binding the collection of stories and giving them as gifts as part of Advent Conspiracy and at our family gathering having the authors of the stories read them out loud and recording it for my grandmother, since her eyesight is not the best anymore.
So that's an alternative to the big project, but it's not quite as fun.
Any ideas for me or for yourself?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Mean People

I tried watching Rain Man last night. I couldn't finish it. It was too difficult. Dustin Hoffman does a marvelous job in that role. Seriously. And I guess Tom Cruise does, too. (P.S. I did NOT know both of them were in that movie. Crazy?!) I could not watch Charlie Babbitt treat his brother with such contempt, such anger, such self-serving. Partially because it is sickening to see humanity so base, so far from what we were created to be ... it must have been a little taste of how God feels when He looks down at His creation gone so far astray. When I turned off the t.v., that must be a small part of what it's like when God turns His back to what His beloveds do. But I did not turn the t.v. back on and have chosen today not to finish the movie. I normally have a problem with not finishing things ... to an extent, at least (I also love to run away from things) ... but I am trying, as it comes up, to learn to let things go unfinished and be okay with that. I'm sure the movie is completely redeemed by the end, after all, it's a much-loved classic.
But I think what is more painful is that in the character of Charlie Babbitt, I also see reflections of myself. This is sometimes the marvelous thing about movies (sometimes it's the hardest). Movies can never be too far removed from the culture in which they are made and the people who make them. Somewhere there is Truth in them, but whether you see it or not is up to you mostly. There are some movies which are solely for enjoyment and you should not always analyze movies to find the Truth lurking in there. Return to Me for example. I do not think that it is a deep movie with profound spiritual Truth about honesty, secrets, relationships, destiny and community. It's true that those things are addressed and covered, but mostly it's a cute movie. That's fine. Rain Man, however, is more than just a cute movie. And the fact that I see part of myself, a disgusting part of myself, in Charlie Babbitt hurts. A lot. We have a new coworker at my shop and she is painfully slow and nearly incompetent. I do not treat her well. If my behavior toward her were filmed and put on a big screen. I think I would also turn it off and send it back. Only in my story I'm not fairly certain the behavior will be redeemed (if the person is) ... and I won't be getting a golden statuette for it.
I haven't sent Rain Man back yet, so I may still finish it and be glad that I did. Maybe I should finish it so that I can see and be reminded of the redemption of my actions and attitude, maybe the pain is good for me to go through to help me remember to beware of my choices and avoid making poor ones, especially as I relate to people.
For all the fluff I say about loving people, I don't often do it well. It's the second most important commandment and it's so hard. We only have to do two things in this life, and both of them are incredibly difficult. But not impossible. If we have Faith.