Turxting

Because last week was long and hard and exhausting,

because sometimes we just need a little laughter,

I’d like to introduce you to texting (or turxting) conversations between Ethan and myself (hope you’ve seen Castaway):

S: …I’m asking if there’s a way for us to know what’s going on at the meeting and vote by proxy. I also affirmed we’re committed, sound ok?

E: We are committed

S: Great. Sending the email.

E: message in a bottle

S: I cc’ed you. It is floating your way.

E: WILSON!!!!!!

S: poor tom hanks.
S: I hope you know I just blogged that.

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Bruised Knees and Joy

Last week, while running with one of my students, we decided to try out sprinting. We’re “training” for a race which means we’re trying to get my short little legs to run faster. After a seven month hiatus from running at all, asking these stubby appendages to do anything quickly is quite an endeavor. But it was cold and grey, the ground still frozen from the latest snow, so we marked the start and with the end in sight we began to sprint.

Three steps. I made it three steps before I yelped and cursed like a sailor and stopped. My knee had torqued to the side and I was bent double. But the pain faded, and the poor, tough kid mentality of my college years took over and I went back to jogging. Three miles later we’d done some decent sprints and I went off to meet with my own mentor.

Today, a week later, I’m wearing a brace and I had to gimp my way down the stairs to the car this morning. I’m just thankful I didn’t volunteer to walk to seminary today.*

This morning a dear friend hugged me and it felt like I might burst into tears when I stood up to return her embrace — the pain is worse when I go from sitting to standing, from bent to straight. She listened to what had happened and then said with her sweet smile:

This is all in his plan, it doesn’t surprise Him. Now, your work is to learn to see the plan, and even when you don’t you’re to trust.

Trust. Work to trust.

I’m to work out salvation in this day, this pain, the grinding anxiety that there’s something seriously wrong with my knee — something bound to cost money that I don’t have and time I’m unwilling to give up. But this is it, this is the work of the believer:

to look down at my knee, hidden in black elastic band and say, this is good. This the opportunity to trust, to wait more and hurry less, to be thankful for bodies that do work and pray for those that don’t.

It isn’t bruised, it isn’t swollen and it’s probably only a muscle sprain because it feels better when I’m moving. But I can’t run, I can’t train for the race, I can’t go up and downstairs with ease, I can’t bend at the oven or crouch with children. I can’t, I can’t, I can’t.

But I can choose to see God’s goodness in making bodies that work, in sustaining my knee from sliding all the way out of joint in the frozen cold. I can choose to trust that even if I have to see a doctor, God will provide a way because he knows my needs.

And you see — there it is — learning to trust in God’s character (provision, care, knowledge, sovereignty) rather than the situation in which I’ve found myself. This is the work of a believer: to trust God (and how do you trust if you don’t know Him?) and then to go out and live a life that speaks of such deep trust.

_______________________
*on a sidenote, please don’t worry about my knee! We’re pretty sure it’s only a minor muscle issue that just needs rest and some extra support when I do take up running again (and no, that won’t be this week, but hopefully soon).

WHY: Doing Life

This week I’ve been staying with two of my high school students from youth group. It’s amazing how your life disappears when two kids enter the picture. They have homework, school events, friends and youth group. There are guitar lessons, art club and exams. Not to mention emails and junk mail from colleges. They’re out the door at 645 AM after what I hardly consider to be a real breakfast and they’re home again at 235 PM with homework and hungry mouths.

Last night we learned together how to plunge an overflowed toilet.

Tonight we’re probably going out to see a movie.

It’s a wonderful life?

When their parents left, their mother said to me that she hoped I’d have some opportunities to speak into their lives. Well, last night we talked about drinking and college and I told them all the reasons that they shouldn’t drink to excess. But I have a feeling that’s not exactly what mom meant.

What does it mean to teach kids? What does it mean when their lives are so busy? Between guitar lessons and loading the car full of DJ equipment for youth group, I’m not even sure when we’ll eat dinner tomorrow night.

We pray together before they go to bed. I told them I was writing a paper about Jesus and coffee and the importance of work for the human identity and purpose. They stared at me like I’d grown two heads. But it brought up a couple of questions… what does the crema of espresso have to do with expanding the Kingdom? And why did you stop listening to Ke$ha or half a dozen other artists?

I thought how one of my other high schoolers is going for a run with me on Friday. She has questions to ask me, apparently. We’ve just become official as mentor/mentee and I’m freaking out with my own mentor because God knows I talk more than I listen; I am a Franks and Kormick by descent and there’s mistaking that when I open my mouth. I looked  at the coffee cup when she asked me, in the same shop where I found Ethan and my mentor and a new reason to live. I stared at the brown liquid, the soy foam dissolved into sweet joy. I told her the same thing that G told me years ago, before I lived with her and the family, before I learned what it meant to be at peace in the midst of chaos.

The kids aren’t home yet, but they will be soon. I’ll have to turn down Mumford and Sons while we do homework, all jammed into the office together. Tonight, after dinner, Ethan and I will read the daily liturgy and though it isn’t expected of them, I’ll invite the kids to join us. Ethan hasn’t been here, and I’ve missed our times of eating and reading together. This is what we do, after all, this is how we experience God, how we learn of Him, hear from Him and are challenged by the words of the fathers and the movement of the Spirit.

It’s like taking Rebekah running — where I can process and feel the glory of God in the pounding arteries beneath my skin and the bite of the cold winter wind on my face.

It’s like folding laundry with G while she told me about Jesus and peace and suffering.

We do life together. We invite people into our stories, our journeys. We walk alongside one another, holding hands, laughing and crying together and learning together along the way.

Perhaps there’s another way to teach, to speak into one another’s lives. If there is, I haven’t yet found it. But I’m no parent and so I am years away from knowing. I don’t make any claim to understanding what all this is about though I keep finding myself in the midst of it. There’s so much to learn, so much yet to find and discover. This is what I do know:

walking in the way that Jesus calls always creates reason for talking, reasons for speaking into one another’s lives as we grow into the people he has called us to be.

Community and Truth

On Sunday nights I work as a children’s ministry director of sorts. It’s a small role at a big church but it comes with difficulties and joys all its own. Last night, parents were running late and I had a few minutes alone with one of my workers to catch up. She’s recently had a baby born with a developmental disability and a propensity to health issues. It’s been a hard nine months of pregnancy and an exhausting task to have a baby, have him hospitalized for 10 days then put on oxygen and manage to keep up the holiday glamour with her two older boys. The New Year for her is one of hope but also reservation. “I fit back into my jeans!” she exclaimed last night as she arrived, and I can see that things are evening out. But there’s the note of caution – “I can’t put him to bed without oxygen, I won’t sleep if I don’t know he’s alright.”

And sometimes, there’s simply isolation as the family walks through their brave decisions – “I want doctors to stop asking me why I kept him even though I knew he’d have issues. What matters is that he’s been born and I need to know how to care for him.” she sighs and adds, “we’re trying a new pulmonary doctor next week.”

I sit in the rocking chair, holding squalling baby or squirming toddler and I listen to her. I’m often saddened by the long journey they have ahead of them, but I’m always amazed by her grim determination. She hasn’t yet found joy in the undertaking that’s been put on them. But they are determined to see through what God’s entrusted to them in his quite unsearchable providence. We’ve cried together, hugged and traversed the trials of living after the fall. I’ve prayed, on many nights, that God would give me something worthwhile to say – something encouraging and actually helpful (she’s always getting shoddy, shallow encouragement from people in her faith circles—words that mask the fear of not knowing what to say).

Last night she was explaining her anxiety, her concerns about the future of the baby still tiny and hooked up to oxygen each night as he sleeps: oblivious to the world and the sorrows around him. I rocked, back and forth, an eye on the door where we check in children for the evening service. But all my attention was  given to her as she described, in her worry, something that I suddenly realized I knew.

 I asked her, when you’re thinking, is it obsessive? Is it cyclical? Does it wind into downward spiral? She nodded slowly. I have that, I said. I get a tight feeling in my chest, it’s an anxiety issue. I live with it, day in – and day out. Mine always focuses on E, and the fears, the worries, the mounting anxious thoughts.

I told her my story, I asked, is yours like mine? She nodded, amazed, “you too?” and her eyes red rimmed eyes full of emotion.

Me too. I’m in counseling. Every week. It’s getting better, slowly but surely. Because here’s what I was told to do:

When the black thoughts start coming and the anxiety grows at an exponential rate I pull myself up to a stop and I tell myself the truth.

I don’t have to live this way. I don’t have to have these thoughts. I don’t have to go down that path. I don’t have to live in fear, think this way, feel this anxiety. Because the truth is my God is good and he cares and he will not let your foot slip. He watches over you and he will neither slumber nor sleep.

I looked at my friend and I admitted, it isn’t easy and I still have dark days. But you and me, girl, we’re going to live in the truth and we’re not going to be dragged into the mire that is worry and fear. Because Jesus came, he sets us free: from bondage to sin and bondage to decayed thinking.

She nodded, slowly, tearful and I’d have hugged her but at that moment a child came, to play with toys and hear stories about the One who came to set us free while his mom and dad sang in church, songs of gratefulness and praise to that same One.

This is the thing about community. We are never alone in this fight against the way our sin has so permeated our lives, our thoughts, our being. It is crouching at the door and it will come in and eat you alive if you let it. But together we’re holding the door closed and pressing on in the other direction: towards Abba, towards Jesus, towards life in the Spirit of Truth and freedom.

And this is the beauty of truth. It leads us to Him and He is always for us, always for freedom, always for our joy and glory in Him alone.

Holiday Week Mondays

It’s Monday in the office and despite the fact that two of my coworkers were here around 730am, you can tell that none of us want to be here. My eyes won’t stop watering, Lisa practically limps to and from the printer as if her feet are deadened to the world with sleepy Monday blues and Jessica came in half an hour later than normal. We have a lot to do. I’ve a project to finish before the end of the month, the advent devotional should be coming out, there’s an appeal to be written and mailed and a lunch to plan, and a thousand envelopes to stuff. But the boss is on a flight back from Chicago and no one wants to be here.

One of my high school girls is working on Thursday–all day. I told her I’d come visit between my first Turkey Trot and dinner with friends. She’s at a retail store that is open all day Thursday and all night into Black Friday. I was in shock when she told me about it and then I almost cried. What’s wrong, America? Why are we working on holidays to allow people to get more in debt with stuff they don’t need? My girl should be with her family, eating too much food and reminiscing about holidays past or running a turkey trot with the youth group; not at work selling clothes and shoes.

In something I recently edited a writer noted that we should be working for “kingdom change” in our every day lives as parents, employees, leaders, couples and students. It’s a rough Monday. It’s 10am and the most monumental thing I’ve done is update a single website and turn in my time sheet. It’s a holiday week and no one wants to be here–I’d rather be buying sweet potatoes, baking biscotti and enjoying a run or some OT work. What would it be like to work on the most momentous of family holidays?

I’ve been wondering, if I was the manager at that store, would I buy everyone lunch? Invite them over for a late night Turkey Dinner? Would I tell them all to call in sick, so I could lock the doors and apologize to the corporation for apparent widespread illness? Would that be the kingdom, breaking in, standing against the status quo and authority? Would I refuse to schedule anyone at all and take the hit for believing that family and rest are more important than profit? Would that be counter-cultural and civilly disobedient in a way that Jesus might have appreciated: to value people more than money?

I don’t know that I have such courage but….it’s something worth pondering.

In the meantime, I’ll be picking up my high schooler for her half hour lunch and buying her something to eat to make the day a bit tolerable.

WHY: Roommate

I contemplated living alone for a while. I thought: “I need a place to study, a place to bake and not be in anyone’s way, a place to have my HS girls and not worry about inconveniencing, a place to sleep amidst my odd schedule, a place to be away, to be alone, to just be.” 

Well, I couldn’t afford a place on my own.

So instead, I got a super loud, super intense roommate.

E calls her Sassy Stacey. It’s a perfect description. From facial expressions to the snarky way she swivels on her heel, from her teasing manner to the bite in her green chile (yum!) my roommate is a sassy little woman. She’s absolutely fabulous. She’s loud and crazy, her life is too busy and she leaves me love notes all the time–on the table, on my bed, and the ladder to my loft. She loves well, she is strong but wounded as is every human being you’ll ever meet. She’s beautiful and I love her to pieces.

Tonight, after a long day of data entry at work and a noisy night at the food pantry, I came home to her, sitting on the futon under two flannel blankets, knitting a purple scarf. I made myself tea and then sat down beside her to listen to her story of the day. It’s a familiar tale; much like my own. Customers are annoying, inconsiderate, and demanding. Her coworker was slow or too chatty, they ran out of something, the drawer didn’t balance, etcetera, et al. But she didn’t tell me about her day. Instead, she started crying and told me what she’s struggling with these days. I held her hand, sipped my tea and listened.At some point in the evening, she apologized for crying but I shook my head. No, I said, I like it when you cry. It reminds me that I’m not too busy to listen. And it reminds me that I have feelings too.”

“Of course you have feelings!” she practically exclaimed, “you cry over homeless people and old men.”

I laughed and then found tears in my own eyes. I didn’t say outloud as she prattled on with more stress and fears but I did think to myself that this is why I live with a roommate. Yes, money was an issue when I looked for a new place. Yes, I don’t like being a single woman by myself at night with all the odd people living in our world. But mostly, I didn’t want to be alone. I wanted someone to live with me, to challenge me, to frustrate me, to love me and to encourage me. Someone I could build into and serve and forgive when days were hard. I wanted to live with someone because I wanted to be reminded of my humanity and my constant need for community.

Maybe it’s just me but, I think that might be why the body of Christ is so important for believers: to remind us of our fallenness and our absolute dependence on God and one another. More than that, though, the body reminds us of the imago dei and the ways in which we shine like stars in the universe as we grow up together into maturity in the faith. We remind each other of what our humanity is, what it should be and what it will be as we slowly grow into who we are and who we are called to be.

love my roommate.

goofy roommates

this is why I love my roommate.

 

My favourite seat in the library has a pretty great view of the mountains. On Thursday, as I pretended to write a paper on child sacrifice (more to come on that), I could see a storm coming in. At first I could make out the edges of the dark grey clouds as they edged over the mountains, but eventually those edges had crawled far east of the seminary campus and the sky was a blanket of granite slate. The mountains had turned grey blue and I could hardly make out the foothills. I knew my roomie was planning to go to RMNP (she was set to borrow my pass before it expired) so I sent her a slightly concerned text which caused the following conversation:

S: not to be mothering but because I like you : I can see a storm coming in over the mountains, so if you go to RMNP and do Trail Ridge Rd, please be careful! :o)

St: Not going anymore and thanks mom. I am playing with your camera today though. : )

S: Enjoy the camera. :o) And you’re welcome, awkward-older-than-me-daughter… wow this ish just got complicated. :p I might be tearing up as I try to not laugh in the library…

 

yep. that conversation happened.

WHY: Married Couples

Before I started dating E, I hung out with a lot of married couples. Some might call this masochism, others might consider it purely inevitable since I attend a seminary where 60 or 70 percent of the population is married. Maybe I simply missed married folks and family life since I had left G&J’s last summer. Or perhaps it’s because I was desperate for good cooking and free meals.

The truth is, I did it on purpose, so option (b) definitely doesn’t hold up. There were plenty of singles at my church and in my social circles at school. But if I could choose who I would spend the majority of my time with, it’d definitely be married couples. New or experienced, I love hanging out with married folks.

The younger married couples in my life, such as N&L are sweet and fun. They are also working out a lot of their ish as they’ve only just passed their first year anniversary. They argue, they cry, they fail to meet each other needs, they fail to even know what those needs are! But they pick themselves up and they keep on moving forward. I love N&L as they are so honest about their struggles in adjusting to married life. It reminded me that I didn’t have to be perfect and I should expect some amount of struggle and adjustment whenever I started dating someone. Now that I’m with E, I love hearing their stories even more because I am encouraged that our arguments are not unhealthy or abnormal. In fact, we probably fight less then most of our married friends–though, that’s because we don’t live together and I don’t have to clean up after him every single day.*

I also love my  more intermediate friends. These are people like J&K who have been married for a couple of years and are past that first stage of adjustment. They recognize that some things are disappointing but that those things are just “life” especially given the stage we are in–things like having opposite class and work schedules and not always being on the same page about life’s little details. There are also couples like A&J who have a few kids and are on the next stage: parenting. They have made it past the hurdles of one another’s sin and have ventured into bringing more depravity into their home: children!! They are full of wisdom about loving each other and learning what it means to hand that love over to easily shaped minds and hearts. I love watching them work with each other–or try to–and I enjoy learning how they serve one another in the midst of family life. It’s a real encouragement to me and a huge challenge as I’m dating E. I am so selfish, I realize, and it is hard to put myself aside for one man whom I dearly appreciate. Watching men and women do that with their spouses and their children is even more powerful. It’s a witness to the Gospel, that we can love one another like that.

The last group are the more experienced folk. People like G&J who exude wisdom with everything they do. Even simple FB updates and texts contain those nuggets. And I don’t mean just cheesy simplistic stuff. I mean, these people are so full of wisdom and experience, love and hope that it just pours out no matter what they say or do. You can almost feel it when you walk into their house. It’s like Narnia when Aslan was on the move: you can feel the difference in the air. This group also includes older couples whose kids are grown and they’ve made it past the last long jump–living with each other (again). They still love and care for one another, more deeply perhaps, after all they’ve walked through together. I think that’s amazing. Love and longevity have never seemed to go together for me…doesn’t it end eventually? Being with these people while I was single was an encouragement that it could happen someday. Now that E and I are dating, it’s more a question of how does one make it happen? We know it’s possible, so how do we do it?

You don’t learn that kind of stuff from single folks. There are good things to learn from them. We remember how to have fun, that marriage isn’t the end game, that God can use anyone, that there is a healthy element to singleness. But there’s this weighty joy when I’m with married couples–even if I’m with them all by myself.

So it isn’t just coincidence or accident that I skimped on a paper due today in order to talk with a friend about him and his wife. It’s not because I’m nostalgic for when that happens to me or that I couldn’t have other friends. It’s because married folks are great. And I think every single person should have four or five couples in their life that they respect and look up to. Maybe if we loved married couples who are healthy and learned to emulate them even while we’re single…maybe we’d have fewer divorces. But that’s a big maybe. Which is for a much longer (and not forthcoming) post.

For now, thanks to N&L, J&K, M&R, K&I, S&D, J&G, A&J, P&J and many many more.

________
*I suppose this could go both ways. But I’m a neat freak, so it’s probably more like… he doesn’t have to untidy anything to make it feel like he’s not living in a hospital every single day.

Jam Packed Weekends

Last weekend I camped with E and friends from church and then I moved from one side of town to the other. Let’s just say, I didn’t get much homework done and I’m pretty exhausted.

But it was all very worthwhile.

The camping trip was absolutely perfect. E and I arrived early since my classes ended in the morning and he can take off work. We set up a massive tent (the Grand Lodge by Jeep), took logs from nearby campsite, chopped wood and settled in with books around the fire. When the family joining us finally arrived E was taking a nap and I had only struggled through 50 pages of my philosophy homework.

Their dog, Jeremiah, shot out of the car and into the trees, thrilled by the crisp air and the whistling winds above us. Every stump help a new smell, each little path a new adventure. The children followed suit as soon as they were released from their carseats. T and little A stumbled around, weary from the drive and overwhelmed at the sights. O had to be held, cranky and teething but full of wide eyed wonder.

That night, after the children had been put down, E and I enjoyed some time with our friends. We savoured s’mores made with nutella instead of chocolate and talked about culture, religion and the mess in between.

This couple is about ten years older than us and they are full of wisdom and grace. The weekend, especially the evening without kids, was so encouraging for E and I. That isn’t, of course, why we invited them. We actually wanted to get J to try camping since she hasn’t gone in years and was a little worried the entire time. We don’t go camping by ourselves anymore, and we thought that J and her husband would be great fun to have along.

But in our conversations it was a real privilege to hear J’s heart while E talked with A about work, fishing and church. I love having more insight to someone who I look up to and who has so many qualities that I hope to one day exhibit. She was sweet and honest and I appreciated hearing more of her story. I was surprised at how similar we are in several areas and God used her to remind me that I’m not the only one who struggles in walking the faith or living the life we’re given this side of Heaven.

It might have been easier to move on Saturday and had the weekend to unpack, finish homework and find time to breath in the midst of the city’s chaos.

But it was better to find that chance of rest in the mountains with wise friends who could encourage and challenge us by just being themselves.

WHY: the move

I’m moving some time in the next two weeks. I don’t know where yet, or how, but I do know why.

It was about a two month process in deciding to move. I didn’t want to leave my apartment, with the refugees, the heat, the highway, construction and the noise. But there were so many things that I needed to finish. I drive about 40 minutes on a good day to get to school and work, I run through a tank of gas in six days which is over 400 miles. I needed a place to study so I could come home at night instead of living in the library throughout the week. I wanted to be closer to friends, to church, to community, to my boyfriend.

In the end, I chose to move, to be closer to my life on the opposite side of Denver. It was a hard couple of months. I felt selfish and self absorbed as I considered my needs for the first time in ages. I didn’t want to leave my roommate and the ministry that she had worked so hard to create in our neighborhood; and the painful joy of joining her in occasional attempts at ministry that I could fit in to my obscenely busy schedule. I didn’t want to leave the girls that I was getting to know, and I didn’t want to just “give up” when things got hard.

But I also learned in those two months that it was okay to consider my nerves, my needs, my hopes and desires. I was affirmed by several people that God wouldn’t mind if I considered myself and not just the desires and hopes of others. I had so much encouragement spoken over me about this chance to care for myself as I’ve never done in the past–and I was assured that it was not narcissistic. In fact, it was healthy and it was a way of honoring the way God has gifted me and the way he is directing my life: seminary, theology, education and ministry within the church.

So I’m moving at the end of this month. I don’t know where I’m living, only that it will be with my friend S. In many ways, I don’t know how it will work with school starting a new job finally taking off. But it will work. God always makes things work out in my life–and usually at the last minute.

this adventure is no different.