Friday, February 29, 2008

You Can't Win...

and I guess I can't either. It seems to be that time again. The time when a bad mood elevates to a funk, and I can't seem to shake it. And a part of me doesn't even want to shake it. I want to wallow in it. I want to get take-out, wear my pajamas, and not come out of my shell for a few days. Life, however, has a different plan as I have a roommate, which means I cannot be alone as I desperately desire to be. And Carter is coming into town this afternoon.

Sigh. He really can't win. At least a quarter of what he's said to me in the last 48 hours has gotten on my nerves, which I find irritating as I know that normally the things he's saying wouldn't bother me at all. And I could easily write a ten page brief on why I should quit dating him despite the fact that earlier in the week I could not have produced one page without a good bit of stretching.

This reminds me a bit of when I was 18 (and listening to entirely too much Pearl Jam, Alanis Morissette, Fiona Apple, and Counting Crows) and on the wave of emotions that seemed to dictate each day. One day I thought my boyfriend was the best thing ever, and then the next day if he didn't show up with flowers or call when I thought he was going to....bam--I was angry or sad. Or I'd get drunk and manufacture some conflict. Drama, drama, drama. So while I'm glad those days are long behind me, I find it ironic that now I am not fighting this funk with more vigor.

Ah anyway, so here's my thoughts as written in my journal last night:

I really need to talk to God and try to submit what I don’t want to submit. And ask for help even though I clearly want to wallow in this a bit and hold onto it instead of reaching out for what He has for me, which is infinitely better and more joyous and eternally satisfying than what I’m aiming for. How can He be so incredibly patient?

p.s. I'm grateful that although in a funk, I can remember how I normally feel and not succumb to these feelings. I'm also glad for Fiji water, which I think may cure my mood.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Snow Day!

Although I love my work, I was delighted to wake up this morning at 6:30 a.m. and check the Nashville schools website to find that schools had been closed "due to inclement weather." Yeah for an unexpected day off and for large pretty flakes of snow. The rest is much needed after a weekend away and lots of social engagements (way too many for my introvert-ish ways).

Here is the view of the "inclement weather" from the toolshed.

p.s. I'm grateful for rest.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

I Don't Get It...

How can a pizza restaurant "run out" of pepperoni? Or a smoothie place not have any orange juice--when it is in the same shopping center as Kroger? One day I'm going to go to a Mexican restaurant that doesn't have any chips or a sushi restaurant with no fish. I guess you know your life is good when the worst part of your day is your favorite lunch place not having honey chicken salad. I just wonder how that happens since the restaurant is in a city where honey and chicken can be purchased, and it's 11:30 in the morning (and therefore they haven't even experienced the mad lunch rush). Maybe it's a huge early morning lunch order? Or do restaurants only use food from certain vendors and refuse to buy things at local grocery stores--even in a crunch? Perhaps they are contractually obligated or something. If you know why, please share.

p.s. I'm grateful for the opportunity to visit two new states this last weekend--Indiana and Illinois, and I'm glad for fountain Diet Coke.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

My Story

The word "testimony" usually brings to mind one of two things in my mind: a witness in court/deposition or a Christian sharing the story of how she came to accept Christ as her savior. The second meaning of testimony hasn't been that familiar to me until the last few years, and I still feel a bit weird using the word. Perhaps my discomfort arises from the word feeling like religious jargon, meaning that others may have no idea what "testimony" is.

Last week AM's post and the subsequent comments led me to think about my faith and my experience. Billy wrote that he wished "we'd just keep our beliefs to ourselves." But I am glad that many people haven't complied with his wish and have shared their faith with me. I see how different my life is because of my relationship with Christ, and I can't imagine not sharing that with others. It's too exciting. It's brought too much joy into my life to keep it to myself. I thank God that my friend Lori didn't keep her faith to herself and kept on inviting me to church despite my initial resistance.

Anyway, my pastor has asked church members to share their testimonies during Lent, so I shared mine this last Sunday. Since I was supposed to limit my story to 3-4 minutes, I had to write it out. I've pasted a rough draft of what I shared on Sunday below.


By the time I began college I was agnostic; I didn’t really know what I believed, and I didn’t care to expend any energy to figure it out. I was also afraid of what Christianity might cost me and was pretty certain I wasn’t interested in giving up a number of sins, so I figured “why bother?”

The year after college a coworker kept inviting me to a Tuesday night church service….and she finally twisted my arm hard enough to get to me to go. And I was pretty amazed; it was a service with about 3,000 people and a rock band, and unlike anything I’d ever seen in all of my years of attending church. I’d never seen people who were just excited about Christ. And I’d never heard a sermon that felt remotely relevant to my life, so it was a first for me to feel engaged by the message and leave a church with something to think about. The experience was intriguing enough for me to go back a few times, and when I moved to Atlanta I ended up attending church there—getting hooked on a sermon series that kept me coming back nine Sundays in a row

But I still didn’t believe Christ was my savior. I wanted to believe, but I just didn’t. And finally a friend told me that at some point I’d have to quick over-thinking things and take a leap of faith--God wasn’t going to necessarily meet my analytical standard of proof in the exact way I demanded, resolving every issue I had with Christianity or Christians for that matter. No email or flashing lights were going to appear; I was going to have to step out in hope and give my trust to God. And so seven years ago I took the leap of faith, accepting Christ as my savior. And for the first four years, it was a rather slow go in submitting my life to Christ—but as I’ve gotten to know God better, it’s become easier and easier to trust Him and His plans over my own.

And it’s funny--in the way I was measuring cost, my faith in Christ has ended up costing me more than I ever could have imagined that it could. As a non-believer, I didn’t understand that by realizing and accepting what Christ had done for me I would actually WANT to live differently. I didn’t understand that it wasn’t about my actions but about His. I didn’t understand that people didn’t give up certain behaviors or sin to earn salvation—but rather because of the gift of salvation and their relationship with Christ. And through my experience of accepting Christ as my savior and pursuing a relationship with God, every part of my life has changed.

I sometimes find myself saying something or even feeling or believing a certain way, and I can’t believe I’m having the thought. It’s as if I’ve been rewired without fully realizing it. And as I grow in my faith, I let go of more and more of myself and my sinfulness and see glimpses of who God created me to be. And while this ongoing process of renewal and transformation has been painful and exhausting at times, it is a journey marked with more joy, sweetness, peace, and freedom than I’ve ever could have anticipated.

p.s. I'm grateful that I saw Carter seven days in a row.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Dread...I Have No Idea

I recently began teaching reading to third, fourth, and fifth graders during our afterschool program in addition to my junior high reading class. Today my third graders encountered the word "dread," so after I defined it, I asked them to use it in a sentence.

One student, lets call her "Shanee," raised her hand eagerly. Of course, she hadn't thought of a sentence yet but eventually blurted one out, saying that she dreaded the next time her mom was going to beat her. Shanee then pointed out a large bruise on her arm and told us that the police had taken a photo of it.

As you can imagine, this wasn't what I expected Shanee to say, and given that we only had about another minute or two of class, I wasn't sure what to do with what she shared with her four classmates and me. So I asked them if they wanted to pray for Shanee and her mom. Two of them nodded in the affirmative and asked if we could hold hands around the table. One of the girls volunteered to pray, asking that Shanee's mom would stop beating her and that her dad would quit doing drugs (this girl is her cousin and obviously has some insight). Shanee interrupted the prayer to remind her cousin that it was her mom that did all of the drugs.

And so "dread" takes on new meaning for me. It's no longer how I feel about sitting in Atlanta traffic, getting a shot, confronting someone, returning to work after a holiday, etc.

It's how a precious nine year old girl--a child who is wonderfully affectionate, full of spirit, often moody, has incredible rhythm, and managed to put together the cutest cheer for me on "stewardship" for a devotional for her classmates a few weeks ago--feels about what her own mother is going to do to her. She's not wondering what gift she might receive for her birthday or where her family might eat out this weekend. She's dreading when she'll be beaten next.

Needless to say, I will report this, and it won't be the first time our program has had to do so. And while I feel great sadness by what Shanee is enduring, I have managed to find some comfort (and pray that Shanee has too). First, I am so grateful that Shanee shared her dread with us. Second, her classmates desire to pray for her and her cousin's love and concern is encouraging; I so want Shanee to know how loved and perfect she is. And lastly, Shanee's wonderful spirit despite her hardships and pain reminds me that good can prevail over evil and that God can redeem anything--even those things we dread most.

p.s. I am grateful for the amazing opportunity I have to learn from children whose lives look so very different from mine.