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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

starts in my toes and makes me crinkle my nose

Well ladies, the Winter Jam season is upon us. Best time of the year. 

My home church's youth group and my family met me outside the Scope. The plan was to wait outside in line at 2 p.m., three hours before doors opened. There were thousands of people already congregated outside and rock music pumping from the concrete flatland of Norfolk when I approached my group. 

We were each mastering the art of catching up and feeling close while rocking our bodies back and forth to keep warm. It was like we were silent participants in very low key workout videos. Silent, with the exception of the rock music. Our heads bowed against the wind, our bodies shaped into prayer and our minds too fozen to get there. 

It wasn't long before I started to hate the black ballet flats I decided to wear. I put them on that morning for the walking-comfort-factor, not so much for the keep-your-toes-toasty-factor. Everyone seemed to be passing judgment on my wardrobe malfunction of the day. 

"Brett, aren't your feet cold?" they asked. 

Yes. Yes they are. They're stinging they're so cold. It feels like I'm standing on thousands of snow-covered porcupines and I'm actually not confident I have feet anymore.

I felt pretty foolish. Shoe choices should be one of the easiest decisions of the day. Thoughtless choices, usually paired with other very simple decisions like, "Will you pray?" Or, "Would you like more coffee?"

But, there I was. Wrapped up like the little boy bundled up tightly and about to "pop like a tick" in A Christmas Story. Warm everywhere but my feet. Cursing the 40 miles per hour winds. Cursing my ever-stupid shoe choice.

And then I noticed out of the corner of my eye a woman standing about three feet away. She was bundled and puffed to the maximum, just like me. Her curly brown hair was tumbling in the wind, because she probably decided it was as pointless to even try to keep her mane tamed in the weather's rodeo. She also had on a similar pair of little ballerina flats.

We sort of exchanged those concerned-smiling glances. As if to say, "Hey girl, I know your feet are cold. I'm right with ya. Just hang in there."

And then her husband got down on his knees and put his gloved hands over the place where her feet were left uncovered. It was one of the most selfless, loving things I had ever witnessed. It was so intimate, I felt my face blush before I could make myself look away.

And that's when the ever-present merry-go-round-prayer in my head began. 

Oh, Lord. Will there ever be anyone in my life willing to do that for me? 

At this point, I was past trying to be positive. I was miserable and my only option for being able to withstand the icy witchlike air against my feet was to hobble over to the local mall and get a pair of socks. I turned to my dad and told him my plan and that I was sorry to get out of line but that I'd return in a few minutes. 

My dad promptly replied that he had two pairs of socks on, and without a second thought he simply unlaced his shoes and plucked the outer pair of black socks he was wearing off his own feet and handed them to me. 

How could I have forgotten that a very important man in my life loves me more than enough to cover my feet with his gloved hands. He loves me enough to give me the socks off of his own two feet. 

I quickly thanked him, sort of in a silent, bashful way. Feeling like a little girl who still needs her parents to help her decide what to wear. I pulled the black socks onto my own feet. They were huge and the heel bubbled in the back of my shoe. And I never felt more loved or treasured in my entire life. 

Happy Tuesday, sisters!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

wear it like a ball gown

Welp.  I’m here again.

I only ever pick up the book
Captivating by Jon and Stasi Eldridge when I’m on the verge of a nervous breakdown.  More specifically, a single girl nervous breakdown. 

What’s a single girl nervous breakdown, you ask?  Be honest, you already know.

It's a phenomenon evolving in front of thousands of television sets screening
Bridget Jones’ Diary and other delirious rom-coms every day.  It involves too much wine, fuzzy socks and 1000 piece puzzles featuring New York’s latest Broadway charms, large bowls of popcorn and a whole lot of feeling sorry for yourself.

Or, at least they do in my apartment.

But when I’m done with the single girl pity party (with all the “Why didn’t he call me after I made him that too-salty dinner that one time six months ago?” and the “If I just had a man to help me carry these ---- ---- groceries inside, maybe the bottom of the bag wouldn’t have fallen out and there wouldn’t be any wisps of Trader Joe’s carnage on the sidewalk by my car”) I pick up my frayed copy of
Captivating and read, read, read.

An even more enjoyable chore now that my brand, spankin’ new apartment has a flip switch fireplace (hooray!).  

I have completed this cycle twice, and am now entering it for the third time.  The phase begins with a truly hopeless attitude, full of negative thinking and a real lack of faith.

Because when you feel like God has promised you something, and that promise is in no way coming close to being guilty of transpiring, sometimes that turns your world on its end.  Then you start to think about all the areas in your life you are unsatisfied with.  You complain about your crummy job, your lack of time to spend with friends, how far your family seems from you, or how slowly your dreams are unraveling (or maybe even how your dreams aren’t unraveling at all).

Really, it seems, that if just one thing, one thing, in your life was going perfectly, perhaps you could have faith, be a blessing, be involved with your church, make a gourmet meal, have a good hair day and fit into a pant size smaller.  And usually (for me) that one thing that I most want to go well in my life is the romance thing. 

But, right now as I sit hulled in my apartment in my cheetah print pajamas and dirty dishes in the sink, I realize it's romance (its lack, its presence or even a hint of its promise) has caused the most destruction in my life for the last - oh - four years or so.

And before I know it, my scraggly, ungrateful finger is pointing at God.  Simultaneously blaming him and disbelieving him (my pointer finger is sort of talented in that capacity).

That, sweet sisters, is the single girl nervous breakdown.

So, I take my accusatory fingers out of God’s face, and let them flitter through the pages of this book again and again.

I try to fill my single girl negative thoughts with thoughts that are pure, noble, right, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy (Phil. 4:8).  

I meet a girlfriend for coffee or try to teach myself a B7 chord on the guitar.  And it’s then that I carry a spirit of thankfulness.  I wear it like a ball gown.  And, in spite of everything, I feel beautiful.

Even in the midst of a single girl nervous breakdown. 

Saturday, February 9, 2013

carving out compromises

Michelangelo said once that every block of stone has a statue inside it.  And it is the task of the sculptor to discover it. 
I can just see him with his eyes closed, the side of his face pressed to the cool block of stone.  He then abruptly stands back with his hands on his hips.  Like he’s a child obeying some sort of dinner or bath time call from his mother.  It’s with that same urgency he begins to chisel away.  Each hit accompanying a painful, low clink, disturbing the bellows of the large marble monster in front of him.

And then stuff like the David and Pieta would happen. 

I think I’ve been treating my heart the same way lately.  Day by day taking out a chisel and hammering the sharp tool repeatedly into it.  Disrupting its roots, cleaving off large chunks of it.  The pieces strip off the side, and they roll around like dice by my feet on the floor.

But taking a chisel to my heart has not unveiled a masterpiece.  What’s left behind is not a work of art that just needs to be knocked away of its extraneous stone.  All that remains of my piece of stone heart is the very dregs of who I am.

See, the carving I have been doing to my heart has been extracting the lessons I have learned from the wisdom of others.  It’s been a very selective, repetitive process:

Sure, I’ll date this dude for a while - he doesn’t have facial hair, or play the guitar.  Or live like he loves God.  But he’s tall (

Okay, a guy doesn’t have to pursue me, or support and inspire my dreams.  We can just hang out at his place watching high definition life pass before us on his television set (
clink, clink!).

Well, I was working until 2 a.m., and a 9:30 church service seems like it would do more harm to my personality than good (

I know these certain pockets of people drag me down, but if I don’t hang out with them I won’t have any friends at all (

I’ve been carving out these compromises from my heart for years.  I think we all must do it in some form or another.  Otherwise, we wouldn’t need a Savior to put the pieces back together.  I need to put down the tools that strip me of the things that I know.  The things that extract large chunks of my heart.

A great artist knows how to reveal the statue living in the middle of stone.  But only God knows how to put our cleaved and chiseled hearts back together.  

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