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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

rosetta lessons

I'm a little bit obsessed with communications.

Aside from loving to read and write, I also love the spiritual aspects of language. The first time I really knew there was a God (like, really knew without even a remote racing flicker of a thought or doubt) was when I first heard worship in Spanish.

Cuan grande es Dios?

I've harbored a secret obsession with language ever since; a special sort of hunger to learn as many spoken and unspoken forms of communication as possible.  

Sometimes this is effective. And sometimes---uhh...bless my heart(?)---it's so not.

Like, there was this time I went around a little village in the Dominican Republic, asking people, "Como te llamas?" (what's your name) as I passed them in their houses on a muddy path. 

I really thought I was asking them how they were doing.

Honestly. Someone should really warn a sister before she starts ignorantly quoting a Shakira song because she doesn't know a lick of Spanish. My friends that witnessed my cheerful, perky dumbness laughed at me. Hard. And rightfully so.

I tried to brush it off, like I do a lot, "Pssh, whatever guys. I was just trying to make some new friends."

But, perhaps when it comes to communications, learning from Rosetta Stone would be better than learning from Shakira. Kind of like how lessons are better learned first-hand, than through the wisdom or advice of others.

Rosetta lessons

Rosetta lessons are the lessons you learn the hard way. They're the lessons about self-control. They're lessons about guarding your heart, and guarding your wallet. I think they are—much like spoken and written word—pretty universal. Everyone at one point or another has to learn a Rosetta lesson or two.

Single people may learn a Rosetta lessons when they face a relational disappointment. Married folks (forgive me, I'm in unchartered waters here) may face financial struggles or disagreements. Married folks with kids, I'm sure, start learning Rosetta lessons as soon as they bring their joyful little swaddling "pink" or "blue" home with them.

Rosetta lessons are the ones that wake you up at 4:30 a.m. They're the thoughts that come to your mind in a flash and won't let you succumb to sleep again. And I can't speak for y'all, but they sometimes make the place where the top of my neck meets the bottom of my head sore.

And there I was this morning, wrestling my thoughts in my twisty, twin sheets. Trying to tell my inner-monologue to shut-the-good-gracious up.

But, regardless of the circumstances I'm finding myself in, I'm thankful for these Rosetta lessons. I'm thankful for the opportunities I have to learn these things on my own. To learn how to spend money wisely. To learn how to be a good steward of my time with others. 

So, much like the Rosetta Stone prepares travelers' tongues with quick, sharp words in a foreign language, perhaps—single ladies—when these lessons are through, we'll be able to relate to more people. Perhaps our ministries as emboldened, lesson-fortified, courageous women will be able to speak to others who are foreign to our stage of life.

And maybe we'll have more than a Shakira song to contribute to the mix.

Happy Tuesday, y'all!


Sunday, March 17, 2013

and to think I almost skipped church today

Today, my pastor told a story about a very young girl who was beguiled by a string of plastic pearls she saw at the Dollar Store.

"They were awful and cheap," said Jim. "And her mother refused to pay for them---she told her daughter that if she really wanted them, she'd have to save her own money." 

So the little girl saved and saved. Did chores for her grandmother for quarters and dimes. She placed each coin carefully, studiously into her piggy bank. Until finally one day she had enough money to purchase her beads. 

And was she ever the classiest little lady you ever did see. Audrey Hepburn in plastic. Wore the beads everywhere. Playing outside, helping her mom in the kitchen, in the bathtub---you name it. 

And though they began to rot (as you can imagine) after a few weeks of wear,  she didn’t care. They were lovely, and they were hers. 

One night when her father was tucking the little girl into bed, he asked her if she loved him. 

“Of course I do, daddy! You know I do!”

“Alright, if you love me, then give me your beads,” the father said to her.

“Oh, no,” said the girl. “I couldn’t do that. I feel so pretty in them.”

The father smiled and kissed her goodnight, still loving her in the same way. This pattern continued several times. The father would tell the little girl that if she loved him, to give her the beads. And the little girl would, however excusably, refuse.

One day the little girl walked into her father’s study.

“You know what, Daddy?” she said, her hands shaking and glassy tears collecting in her young eyes. “I do love you. And I want you to have these beads.”

She extended her small hand into his, and her father said nothing as he simply placed the beads into his pants pocket. 

She was stunned, devastated. All of her work, all of her wear went into those beads...How could he ask her to sacrifice her most prized possession?

But before the little girl could muster herself out of shock to begin to cry, her father smiled. He reached into his top desk drawer and pulled out a red, velvet bag.

Inside the bag was a strand of gorgeous, real pearls.

And I’ve never been more thankful that I typically go to church alone because I cried for that loving father and the lesson that little girl learned.

I realized that I have several strands of cheap, plastic beads that I covet around my neck. They are my romantic relationships. They are how I spend my money.

Some of them are more than a rotting strand of pearls, they’re like those spiked dog collars. More than a millstone, they’re utter destruction.

But, I love them. I worked hard for them. And honestly, I’m frightened to death of what my life would look like without them. They're mine after all. 

But I also know enough about God to know that there is a beautiful treasure, a string of pearls he has reserved just for me. I just have to forego those plastic beads at His feet once and for all. 

Ladies, what plastic beads do you have in your life? Are you afraid of what your life would look like without them? If you gave them up, how would you be hindered? How would you be blessed? 

Sunday, March 10, 2013

bread crumbs: why we have trouble forgetting the former things, and why that makes the future a little salty

I think Hansel and Gretl were on to something. 

You remember the tale, right? They left the home of their abusive parents in order to wander the woods. They carried with them loaves of bread. I like to imagine them each warm and soft, and wrapped in crinkly, wax paper. I can see the two of them kicking up the dusty dirt paths, nibbling, ripping apart the crisping crusts with greedy hands and tossing the the few remaining bites behind them with little bursts of crumbs. 

They were looking for better. Running away from the fate of their horrible parents. Longing for a new life, but still clinging to their old one with every step they took and every piece of bread that dropped by their feet.

There's something oddly comforting about looking back, isn't there? The character of Gwendolyn says it best in Oscar Wilde's play, the Importance of Being Earnest.

"I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read on the train."

She's infatuated with her own history. She seduces her soul with it. In a way, each page of her diary is a bread crumb, the words she scribbles marks a trail of heartbreak or disappointment she can return to when she's unsure of who she is. 

I tend to do the same thing. I find myself dwelling on certain heartbreaks, injustices I've faced the last few months, or the hurtful things those I love or care deeply for have said or done against me. I think that by leaving a breadcrumb trail of pain I can remember who I am as I turn from the chapters of my life from yesterday and begin fresh. 

These crumbs become a part of my identity. And God is very clear in scripture on how he feels about "breadcrumbers." 

Isaiah 43:18-19 says, "Forget the former things, do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness, and streams in the wasteland."   

Further, in the Old Testament, Lot and his wife were fleeing from their home city that was being destroyed. God told them not to look back. 

Don't leave a trail of crumbs for yourself he seemed to say (am I allowed to paraphrase God?). Do it---I dare you, see what happens. 

Lot's wife, instead of looking ahead, dashing to safety and fleeing from utter destruction, turns to look back.

Who knows why? Probably for the same reason we all dwell on our pasts. She wants to feel sorry for herself. She wants to delve into shopaholic, alcoholic, foodaholic tendencies without feeling guilty. She wants to deserve her wallowing. She wants to leave a trail of breadcrumbs. 

She looks back, and turns to salt. 

I think the Lord wants to bless us in magnificent ways. Particularly those who have undergone tragedy, heartbreak, oppression, injustice, illness. I just hope that we can turn from these calamities in our lives long enough that we don't salt our wounds.

I hope we're each brave enough to forego a trail of comforting breadcrumbs, and look ahead to the new chapter that awaits us.


Thursday, March 7, 2013

we're gunna need a bigger boat

Writing happens in several stages. It's a distant cousin to grief in that way. There's the muse stage; where you dip your bucket into a friendly, infinite well of ideas. It's a rare stage. It usually comes at at very odd times (two a.m., anyone?). And you're surprised, and maybe even a little delighted by what little old you can hoist from the deep, rich oil rigs of your mind.

Then there's anger; when the cursor keeps blinking on a blank page. And it won't ever stop. And you take it personally (if you look at it long enough, it almost seems like it's cussing you out).

Then there's the rewriting phase. A phase I frequently find myself in. There was a note in a news story I had written earlier this week saying that I needed to restructure one of the paragraphs of the piece.

"Sounds a little negative," the note said. "Let's rephrase this."

It kind of seems like my "glass-half-empty" mentality transcended onto this platform with Monday's post. An old girlfriend reached out to me on Facebook, saying that the post made her think about her prayer life---and don't get me wrong, I was thrilled and incredibly humbled.

I was really hoping the chaotic carousel of our daily requests of God would slow as a result.

But, I don't think it sparked any particular kind of encouragement. Makes sense. After all, what does pointing out faults or selfishness really do if there's no thought or voice calling against the throng of this prayer mentality?

And really what good is change if all it does is walk alongside the problem and complain about it? I don't want to be first oars-woman in a boat that's caught up in a current, singing some sad, folksy version of "Row, Row, Row Your Boat," about the unhappy fate of myself and everyone else I'm rowing with in tandem.


If there's a problem in the boat, I want to get out of it. Abandoning ship doesn't require complaining. Or even talking (unless you're screaming "CANNON BALL" at the top of your lungs, in which case it's completely appropriate).

Monday's post complained with the problem. And today, I'd like to open the dialogue of how to change.
So, let's share with one another and get out of this boat together.

Ladies, if you don't mind sharing, how do you conduct your prayer life?

If you do happen bark your "prayer orders" at God, like I am inclined to, how do you change? How do you pray for others? How do you pray for yourself (that's important, too!)? What do you thank God for? 


Monday, March 4, 2013

faith and caffiene buzzes in a starbucks drive thru

There is a very small, nearly music-box sized, drive thru Starbucks a few miles up the road from where I live.  Most of my conversations about God, faith and fellowship sprout from across the tiny bistro tables, accessorized by genuine spirit, and steaming coffee in cardboard cups. After all, it's strong coffee and good conversation that wins the world's "cutest couple" award. Even over chocolate and peanut butter.

Today, however, I’m accompanied by a letter from an old friend, Greg.  He is a soldier in his first few weeks of basic training in the United States Army.  I sit in front of the shop’s wall of windows, one hand clutching the crinkled page and the other resting around the rim of my coffee.

“Greetings in the name of Jesus Christ from bootcamp!” he writes in smudged, black ink.  In the margins of the page, he has drawn a small smiley face.  And I laugh, because my friend is probably the only person in the world who would associate smiling with the word “bootcamp.” 

I take a small sip of my Venti dark roast with a shot of hazelnut, reading the thin page that shares details of his platoon, and the men and women who are beginning to ask him about his faith. 

“I pray the Lord will give me a great testimony while I’m here,” he says. 

For a moment, my eyes wander from the letter to the line of cars beginning to form around the drive thru.  The patrons sit with their hands placed at the top of the steering wheel, their elbows holding the weight of their hunched shoulders.  Each of them - however polite - bark what they want into the speaker, and wait with an agitated expectancy.

As I watch the people zip around, I see them each as different versions of myself.  I see my own impatience grow with God and my prayers that remain seemingly unanswered as the cars keep running, stopping, starting, paying up, drinking and going about their way.  

Something about his letter makes me realize that this is how I’ve been living my spiritual life.  Resulting in a mere buzz of prayer that swims through the very shallowest bits of my blood stream.

I turn my attention back to the letter in my hand.  Greg tells me about the seventy pounds of gear he has to wear while he stands for an hour in formation.  He’s excited to begin firing practice rockets and grenade launchers.

“I have a list of things you can send, but for now I’m only asking for letters and prayers,” says Greg.

Here he is, a man learning to fight for our nation. And all he wants are prayers and letters. I have a laundry list of things that I ask, rather demand of God every day. Never have my requests ever been as simple or as selfless.

“Take care, and my our Heavenly Father bless you, my dear friend," he says at the closing of his letter.

And you too, Greg. I hope I can learn to be as selfless and encouraging as you one day.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

bounce, baby, bounce!

Suggested listening...

If you ever happened to happen upon a youth group during your TGIF, Destiny's Child and Tamagotchi years (middle and high school), you're probably familiar with the term "purpling." 

It goes like this: guys are blue, girls are pink. Bring them together, they make purple

Purpling was discouraged during retreats and Bible studies. Mainly because that meant that pinks and blues were thinking about...other things. We were supposed to be focusing on serving Christ and impacting the community. 

Once upon a time, a blue in my youth group was talking about how difficult his thought-life was. And how, when it came to pinks, (talking to pinks, dreaming about pinks, looking at pinks in one-piece suits on the youth tubing trip...whatever) his thoughts would trail to the big, capital "P," purple.

The saved for marriage kind of purple

As far as we pinks could tell, the only real solution for the blues to cease their thinking of the "big P" was thought-bouncing. They would talk about how every time they caught a glance of a young woman they shouldn't have (bounce!), or were left alone to visit a certain website (bounce! bounce! bounce!), they would have to lily-pad and hop-skotch over it.

They would divert their minds, closing off that part of their brain until they could think about other things that blues typically think about. Don't ask me what that is. Fantasy baseball, maybe? Or bacon?

We pinks felt lucky that we didn't have to bounce our thoughts. That we weren't so engaged in this big, awful purple business, that we could be friends with a guy without ever once thinking about the "Big Purple." We never learned to bounce our thoughts, because we never had to. 

But now, it's nearly a decade later. TGIF is a thing of the past, Beyonce has a child that has nothing to do with destiny, and Destiny's Child has been disbanded long enough to have a reunion. And I'm finding that we women have some purple business of our own to tend to. It has less to do with the ideas of the Thing you save for marriage, and more to do with marriage itself. 

I like to joke with my girlfriends that I have the "spiritual gift" of spotting wedding bands on the left hands of particularly attractive young men. 

We've all been there: cute guy spotted. He smiles. He makes a joke. He has a beard. And he pulls witty remarks out of his pocket like he's cheating in a poker game. You take a look at his left hand which displays a gold band that would make even Frodo envious and...


This is why we ladies get ourselves into trouble with the men that we date. They take you out a few weeks, and our minds start to purple with thoughts like, "he's the one!" and "maybe he'll ask me to spend the rest of my life with him..."

This is no psychotic exaggeration. We all do it. We get giddy and giggly over it. Dare I say it? We need to learn something from middle school boys. 

We need to bounce these thoughts. I don't have to tell you how damaging they are---how many of you have been disappointed by the end of a relationship you thought would work out? How many of you have stayed with a man who physically or emotionally abuses you because you're afraid he will leave you alone and unmarried? 

If we start to bounce these desperate thoughts, and start learning from the men in our lives instead of using them for our purple thoughts of rest-of-our-lives-fulfillment-and-happiness, then maybe we'll be free to find what it is we're really dreaming of. 

So, bounce, baby! Bounce!

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