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Monday, December 30, 2013

Finding Christ Out of Context

A strange thing happens to me when I travel.

Those (rare) times I find myself in a different part of the country, or in a different realm of the world altogether, I catch myself looking for a friend.

I strain my eyes through the murkiness of the unfamiliar. A facial tick practically begging for a friendly face.

Oh yes, the sights and sounds are always beautiful. Always exhilarating. The dusty streets and the 4/4 rhythms of the Dominican Republic's heartbeat city, Santa Domingo. The red pepper sun rising over the table-top terrain of Dallas, Texas. The rain that fell like the ticks from the second-hand of a clock outside of the very first Starbucks in Washington...

But, everywhere I go, I play a game of Where's Waldo on the streets. And, almost like a friendship mirage, I see a person whose face reminds me of a coworker, or a friend I went to college with.

I know it's not really them, of course. But there is something that my heart and mind agree on. They strain for the recognizable in the times of being un-home.

Seasons of life are sort of like traveling, too.

I noticed this recently when I was sitting with a group of college girlfriends. Sisters, really.

There were chicken and waffles (purchased slightly on a dare, and slightly because there is something causally appealing about the salty-sweet-crunchy combo). There was coffee. There was roasted red pepper soup with gouda.

There were moments of tangled catching up stories. Conversations beginning with deciding who starts first? Sharing details of wedding planning, white dresses, travel plans, career moves, stale heartbreak, boyfriend-swapping.

And there was so much love.

It made me homesick for a different season than the one I'm currently in. It made me wish for the season when I was surrounded by college courses, paper deadlines, coffee shops in libraries (total genius), and those sisters.

Nearly four years have passed since we've moved on from that time in our lives. Four years. So many new chapters have opened and shut. So many frayed pages of our journals have turned.

The funny thing is, though, that I'm finding God in these different seasons. In new churches, in new jobs, in new relationships, in new neighborhoods and levels of my bank account statement.

My eyes strain for the familiar through this twists and changes, and God is there. Despite what I am inclined to believe, it's not a trick that my mind plays on me as I travel to these different pockets of my life's journey.

He's there through the heartbreak, through the disappointment, through the resolutions and projects and parties and books and reading and writing. He's there even through the goodness of it all.

Part of the joy of this season is discovering where He is. How He's worked. How His plan has unraveled flawlessly in my life. Despite my lack of trust or trying.

And it's never a mirage. It's a way of life.

photo credit: Stuck in Customs via photopin cc

photo credit: Stuck in Customs via photopin cc

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Wishing You and Yours the Same Thing, Too

Merry Christmas, sweet friends!

photo credit: Waiting For The Word via photopin cc


Sunday, December 22, 2013

Waiting in the Wings

So much of a ballerina's time is spent waiting.

We'd have to stay very quiet in the dark corridors, so quiet that we'd almost forget to breathe. Our excitement would catch in our chests. And though our director could keep our mouths and voices from moving, he couldn't keep our feet still.

So we'd twirl and "warm up our muscles" in the back. Which really was code for showing off how flexible we were. We'd dip the tops of our toes in the sharp crumbs of rosin on the floor that would keep the wooden blocks we called pointe shoes from slipping on stage.

We'd be waiting every where. We'd be waiting in the dressing room. Waiting for the curtain call. Waiting for the audience to trickle in, an amoeba hungry for culture and movement. Expression and costumes.

We'd wait until we heard our stage manager tell us, "Five minutes, ladies!"

"Thank you, Miss Ellie," we'd all reply.

Our hearts would be racing as we waiting in the wings. Finally with the realization of many people are in the audience. Strangers with odd, unfamiliar faces had paid to see us perform.

Then we'd wait for the moment the recorded music over the loud speaker would swell to a scratching start. Tchaikovsky's the Nutcracker beginning with the swell of the stringed orchestra.

Our cue would come, and we'd leap lively onto the stage. Sure of our presence. Our moves burned into our muscles. Our smiles, our feet, our arms and feet moving together. Lifting, gracing, obeying the music and the months of our direction.

It was worth the early mornings. The stress. The sweat. The itchy ballet tights and the bruised toes. We were dancing in the Nutcracker. We had arrived. We were performing a tradition. Our heads were caked with Aquanet, and our hair was pinned in twenty-thousand different ways. But our names were in the program.

We arrived when the music called us on the stage.

A lot can happen in the space between Christmases. Between Nutcracker performances. 

So much change completes each year, in the space we set aside between the bookmarks of new birth in a manger. Between the time we raise our hands in churches across the nation. Singing, glory to God in the highest–and on earth peace. Good will toward men.

And then, some things remain the same, too. Some of us are still single. In the same place. Same job. Same living situation. We feel like we're waiting in the wings. Waiting for the music and our lives to start.

It's hard for me not to notice it. The odd number of place settings around the table. Celebrating with budding families. Holding babies who belong to people younger than you. Buying cocktail dresses and signing away RSVP cards to wedding after wedding.

It seems like no one else in the world is waiting in the wings. It feels like you're waiting by yourself. And that no one else on stage even notices you have missed your cue.

A new family begins, and another heart simultaneously rejoice and breaks a little. It's a true miracle, how the two events can collide so beautifully in the same single woman's heart.

Even if you have a new job that you're grateful for. Even if you're living in the comfort of your childhood home. Even if you're not entirely alone. Or have anything in your life to be disappointed or depressed about.

It's probably attributed to a first world problem. Being single during the holidays.

I get it. I do. It's a very selfish thing to wonder: when is it my turn? When does my ring finger get to twinkle like the top of a Christmas tree? When do I get to start Christmas traditions of my own? Will I always be living under the umbrella of my family's traditions?

When will it be my turn to step on stage and into the spotlight? To enjoy performing after rehearsing for so long?

I've read a lot of "how to survive Christmas if you're single" articles this season. The ones I've read, ironically, have been written by those who are married.

I appreciate their advice to be sincere. To be honest with our relatives. To be brave in the face of the questions about our futures.

But, it's hard to take advice from those who have their happy endings. It's hard to swallow those morsels of wisdom from people who aren't wondering and wandering through the wings.

From the people who have already been cued on the stage. From those who are already players in the game. From the people who are no longer waiting.

For the rest of us, amidst the love of my family, the love of my savior, the lights, the twinkle, the hot chocolate–the wondering, the longing is still there.

Girls just like me, whether they're in relationships or not. Wondering when the music is going to call their names. To relationships. To motherhood. To their stunning careers. To their publishing deals...

Patience is hard. What's even more difficult is praising through the patience. Suppressing the longing to perform, to play our part on the stage, and thanking God for the new birth, the change around each of us. 

And for our Savior being born.

But I think if we take a moment to rest and wonder in love outside of what we want for ourselves, our time on stage might be even more passionate.

The wait in the wings might make us better performers, after all.

photo credit: Merra Marie via photopin cc

Monday, December 16, 2013

Insta-flawed: confessions of a comparison-addict

Hello. I am a comparison-addict. I've fallen through the trap of the smoke and mirror magic show called social media.

I don't really know what the cure is. But, we all know the first frazzled step in overcoming an addiction is to admit that we have a problem, right? And this is a big one, though I didn't realize it until a few days ago.

It started off pretty innocently. As most additions do, it began mainly out of curiosity. I wondered how my peers, my ex-boyfriends and their new girlfriends were doing. 

Turns out, they're all doing super well.

Like, the better than me kind of well.It really was just supposed to be a fix of Instagram here and there. An admiration of an engagement ring or two.Mindless clicking through wedding photos of complete strangers. New jobs, new business cards, new apartments, new Pinterest-perfect decorations, flowers from boyfriends.

Oh, how nice  and lovely for them. I'd think, initially, scrolling through the feed. How lucky am I to have friends and sisters who are doing so well in the world?

It was a genuine, fortified feeling of "rejoicing with those who were rejoicing." I promise.
Then, one by one, my friends, foes and followers seemed to be winning this very loud, look-at-me race. They seem to have it all, and it looks so good (whether it's #filtered or not).

Then it took an ugly turn inward. Within a matter of seconds rejoicing became bickering.

These little lovely firefly pixels of Instagram that lit up my iPhone each morning turned into a swarm of buzzing internet-envy with photo after photo of images that stung my heart and purpose.


 It was just an Instagram fix. It wasn't supposed to digitally unravel my entire world and purpose.
My thoughts fly from simmer to boil. Because with every "double tap" on every photo, my thoughts travel from doting to jealous in about .02 seconds flat.

I want to play the game, too. I want to keep up with everyone.

But, honestly, it is so hard to keep up appearances. It's so difficult to trick everyone into thinking that my life is as visually-compelling as everyone else I know.

A day in my life in Instagram photos would not show gourmet meals cooked from scratch, but a small tea towel that I actually set on fire because I stupidly let it rest on the stove eye (#firesafetyfail).

It would show the pizza delivery guy knocking on my door and saying, "Haven't I been here before?" as he realized I had ordered an entire medium pizza for dinner, and that aside from the Gilmore Girls, I was completely alone (#dinnerforone).

It would show me being late to work, a run in my tights and lukewarm coffee as my only accessory. It would show missed deadlines, arguments in the car, frequently-missed prayer time and a dwindling bank account (#hotmess).

I am Insta-flawed.

The internet is doing a marvelous job of tricking the world into thinking we have it all together. And lately, it's becoming increasingly harder to understand what is really important and genuine through all the comparison project we're all in the midst of. It's hard to capture a true vision of the word through all of our filters.

I need to break my addiction. The cycle has to stop now. Maybe if we were all a little more open about our flaws, we'd be able to stop feeling the incessant need to keep up our appearances.

Until then, take me out of the running. I have some internet detoxing to do.

photo credit: maaco via photopin cc

photo credit: ilmungo via photopin cc

Sunday, December 15, 2013

How To Manage God

Faith is sort of like supervising a restaurant.

This time last year, that was my career. Being the boss of people. Taking reservations. Ordering servers to tables and assigning them schedules. Writing reports about the evening's events. Answering phones and wearing black blazers. Dealing with insipid customers. Like the ones who would come into the restaurant ten minutes to closing and order a three-course meal (please, don't ever be that person). Or a couple who once asked me if there were any peppers in our stuffed pepper appetizer.

I had business cards and everything.

My last night working at the restaurant, a coworker was sitting in the office that the other supervisor, restaurant manager and I shared. He was on my computer. Sitting in my chair. I looked over and saw that he had pulled up the schedule for the next week, which I was to post before the end of my last shift.

"Get up, are you crazy? Why are you messing with my schedule?" I was practically shrieking, and my face was burning hotter than the eyes of the restaurant's stove-tops.

He looked at me, blinked a few times and then promptly told me to calm down. He explained that he was just trying to help me out by completing the schedule for me. He was taking over my position the next day, anyway.

I told him to get back out to the main dining room, unwilling to let go of the work I was doing.

"Wow," he said. "Who are you going to boss around at your new job?"

Which, of course, I could only take a moderate amount of offense to because, well, he was totally right.

Sometimes I feel like perhaps I've treated my relationship with God is the same way.

Bossy. Demanding. Controlling.

I've forced Him out of my schedule. I've told Him like it was. Put Him in His place. Like I'm trying to manage things on my end.

After all, it's so easy to be the boss of something we can't see, right?

It's like those comments on blog posts and YouTube videos, we're all a whole lot more expressive about our angers and agitations when it seems like we're anonymously praying to God. When we're submitting our thoughts and worries quickly. Flippantly. Like I have been.

Recently, I've decided to trust God with the small things. Trusting Him with the tasks of making it to the next paycheck without my car falling to pieces. Trusting Him to keep me safe. To lead me to true friends. To help me maintain healthy relationships with my family members and other loved ones.

And then, of course, I trust Him with things like paying off my graduate school debt. Because honestly, some problems are so big that you really have no control over them. What's the point of worrying?

But the big stuff, stuff like romantic relationships, and the future? My career? Not so easy to relinquish. Not so easy to hand over. Not so easy to move out of the chair and let someone else–let God–manage.

I'm finding that the things in my life that I care the most about are the hardest to give to the Lord.

The truth is, He's never failed me yet. I don't know why I have such a hard time relinquishing control. Letting Him schedule. And plan. And do the work for me.

I guess I like the hustle. The feeling that I'm doing it all on my own.

I need to stop trying to manage God. First, because it's a pointless endeavor. But, also because I need to let go of the things I have gripped so tightly to. I'm beginning to break the skin on my palms with my nails.

Managing a restaurant is a stressful business. And trying to manage a future that you have no control over is actually mentally, physically draining.

I'm tired of trying to be the boss. I need to move over. Anyone with me?

photo credit: pugetive via photopin cc

photo credit: HarshPatel;Photographer via photopin cc

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Dear Internet: Your Marriage Posts are Scaring Single People

I am exactly one 675 Things You Need to Know About Marriage Before You Get Married (or Even Think about Thinking About Getting Married article away from having a bouquet toss of my own. With my laptop.

Has anyone else had enough? Have we reached the limit? Because I feel as though my Facebook wall is about to burst at the seams. We, the internet users, have been binging on too many of these popcorn truths. And I am sooooo one of the guilty ones.

It really seems like for every "marriage isn't about you" article there is a "marriage is allllll about you" article. For every what to do article, there are a precise number of what not to do counterparts. They argue in circles for and against each other.

They are some of the most simultaneously lovely and frightening pieces of prose I have ever read. And that's coming from someone who has read a lot of Edgar Allen Poe in her day.

Sentence after pounding sentence hammering into the place in my single gal brain that makes me say, "forget it!" If no one seems to be able to do this well, perhaps I'm not really interested in doing it after all. What's the point?

It seems that really the only thing any of us needs to know about marriage (of course, from what I've gathered by being on the outside looking in) is that it is both hard and good. And that no one really, really has a whitewashed method for what works and doesn't. People are different. Relationships are different.

God is creative, and His ways are, too. And marriage definitely seems to fall in that realm.

So, I'm not really convinced that we can quantify marriage. It's like following a sure-fire way to obtaining happiness. Or joy. We can pretend that we have that figured out well enough, or at least have gained a method or two on how to remedy unhappiness temporarily.

Anyone will tell you that happiness can't be bought. At least, not a lifetime supply of it.

Surprising then, isn't it, that we can't fix our problems by reading a step-by-step article articulating the ducks we must have in order before we can ever be ready to "take that step?"

And it must also follow that "liking" an article and arguing about something irrelevant in the comments section doesn't prepare us for the bicker battles about socks on the floor, or whether or not the toilet paper should be rolled for the over or under-handed grab. (Overhanded.)

I've been lucky enough to learn about marriage from my parents. They love each other like they love me. Giving of time. Of talents. Of strengths. They've held me up in times of financial crises, in heartbreak and disappointment. And I know they've done the same for each other.

I've learned about marriage from an old friend whose husband is in the Navy. While he's away, she explained that women equate her to this strong, miraculous person. To be able to live life knowing her husband is far away. Beyond the means of a phone call or even an email. She doesn't see it that way though.

"I'm not superwoman," she said. "I just do what I have to do."

I've learned more about what love looks like from those two sentences than I have from at least 20 articles arguing around the same topic.

Please do not misunderstand, I am so thankful for lovely married people making attempts to guide others in their daily walks with the person they've chosen to stand beside them. You are doing a brave thing, trying to put to words your struggles and victories.

I'm just saying that maybe we should take the noise of those articles with a grain of salt. Maybe in order to be ready for marriage we should open our eyes to the needs of others around us. To escape from the internet noise and pay attention to the flesh and blood we have (or eventually will) cling to. And to begin listening to one another with our ears instead of our distracted, buzz-fed eyes.

photo credit: seanmcgrath via photopin cc

photo credit: *Seth via photopin cc

Monday, December 9, 2013

keep calm and ski on

Trusting God with the future seems so easy when every day is a carbon copy of another.

Routines are your foundation. Your commute is just a zip down the road. You fall into the twists and turns like a skilled race car driver, the bends, the merges. You know them all by heart.

Your coffee mugs are in the same place they've always been, porcelain stacks in the corner cabinet. Like little soldiers ready for your 6 a.m. java roll call.

This stage of life is a little less exciting, but it's predictable. It's comfortable. Your roots are driven into the ground. They are safe. They are protected.

And your'e almost tempted to keep them hidden there forever. Tempted to settle. Tempted to keep things as they are.

But you know that God has so much more in store for you. Eventually.

This season of life kind of like cross-country skiing. You are responsible for driving yourself forward. You create the push. You create the buzz! and the swish! from the blades below gliding beneath you.

Though it's sometimes difficult to see your friends and colleagues swooshing down the hill–propelled by an incline, a natural force wrapping them into the speed of a new career, a new relationship, a shiny new engagement ring, or a growing family, you keep pressing forward.

And this is all-the-more admirable. Because, how much more discipline does it take to propel yourself forward in this stage? To use the momentum of your own two legs to push you across the terrain?

How much more faith does it take to trust that though your life may be a swarm of mere habits and take-for-granteds, that you will accomplish all that you are meant to do?

How much more thankfulness does it take to appreciate a life that seems as though it has possibly plateaued for a time? How worthy are your prayers and worship during this time?

Circumstances change. People change. Jobs change. Relationships change. Nothing stays the same for very long. Even Especially when seasons are good.

The time for you to stand at the top of an incline and be swelled into a season of change will come. Until then, sweet sisters, keep crossing that terrain. Keep pressing on.

photo credit: Corey Templeton via photopin cc

Sunday, December 8, 2013

That Time I Shared a Little Bit of the Speed Daters

They tell you not to do this. Not to share a work that is ever-changing,  or that is vulnerable to criticism. 

But I don’t really care. I want to spend this story. It’s burning a hole in my pocket. Plus is raining/snowing outside. It's the perfect day to read, am I right?

I mean, talk about your work in progress. This web of words becomes more and more complicated every time I open my laptop. It feels like all I’m doing is making characters argue and challenge each other.

It also feels like I’m being stubborn and a little dumb by keeping two of my main characters named “Michael” and “Jordan.” If you don’t understand why this is awkward, bless you. And if you do, it was entirely an accident and I’m not changing them.

At any rate, so much of this process forces me in a place of aloneness. So, I wanted to open a small portion of the story so that anyone who wants to (anyone out there?) could be introduced to the characters I’m getting to know as I punch them out in my Scrivener software.

So even though nothing about it will look the same next week, or maybe the next few minutes, here is a small scene. 

At this point in the story, the main character, Jordan Jacobs (“J.J.” or just “Jay”) has been writing brazen articles for her online relationship column in the Dallas Times-Dispatch. Her dating history, once a genuine appeal at finding a nice, Texas boy, is now filled with empty nights of manipulating men into wining and dining her.

Here her friend and fellow-reporter for the sports section, Michael, confronts her about her questionable decisions. Happy reading!

Michael’s back was turned toward me down at the end of the hallway, and I approached him, holding the manilla folder filled with the pages of my column, bleeding with Riley’s edits close to me.

“Michael?” I tapped him on the shoulder. He was hunched over the table in the coffee corner. He turned toward me with a steaming styrofoam cup of milky coffee in his hands.

“You know, I’m still keeping that Superman mug safe in my desk drawer for you,” I said, motioning toward his environmentally unfriendly cup.

“Yeah, I guess I need to get that back from you,” he said.

“Well, if you’re not busy now we can swing by my office and get it.”

“Maybe later.”

“Okay. Sure, whenever,” I said. “You know where I live.”

“New outfit?” he said before taking a slow sip of coffee.

“What, this?” I motioned to the suit. “Actually Olivia picked it out for me a while back, I’ve just never really needed to wear it to work before now. What’s going on with you lately? I feel like I haven’t seen you in ages.” 

“Nothing really,” he said.

“Well, we never talk anymore, and I’ve had an insatiable craving for that baked ziti,” I said. “Maybe we can get together and make it again?”

“I don’t know, Jay…”

“Okay, okay, fine. You can make it again,” I flashed him a small smile.

“Are you sure your new boyfriend would approve of that?” he said curtly. He narrowed his eyes and focused them into his coffee. They wouldn’t quite meet mine. 

“Kenneth? He’s not my boyfriend.” I really didn’t know what we were.

“I heard that you two were an item,” he said. “Something about him using you to get ahead in his career. Or was it the other way around?” 

There was something odd was hanging in his tone. It was short. Impatient. It wasn’t Michael.

“I don’t know where you’re getting your facts there, reporter,” I said, bumping him lightly on the shoulder with my fist. He stiffened, tense from my touch. I pretended not to notice. “Better check your sources.” 

“I don’t need to check my sources, I read your column,” said Michael, turning to walk toward his office. “That’s evidence enough.” 

“What do you mean?” 

“I mean, you are what you write, Jay.”

“Hey. Hold up there,” I said, my heels clunked dully behind him on the carpet. “You don’t like my column, fine, but that doesn’t give you the right to give me a running commentary on what I’m trying to do.”

“Oh yeah? What is it that you’re trying to do?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “Write something entertaining. Something worth remembering.”

“I can’t really think of a more psychotic way to live than to believe that what you’re doing is actually worth anything,” said Michael. “You’re going out into the world, making it a little worse and then reporting it.”

“That’s completely unfair,” I said, trying to keep my voice steady.

“I’m just trying to help you see that reporting on other people’s lives and dramas? Bringing it to he attention of the public? That’s just gossip. That’s not news.”

“Who cares?”

“The Jay I knew would have cared,” his eyes met mine now, brimming with conviction. 

“Well, what if I’m not trying to make a difference anymore? What if I’m just trying to save enough money to pay off my student loans, huh? What if I’m just like everyone else trying to get by?"

“You’re better than that, Jay. And you know it. I’ve read some incredible things by you, and I can’t even begin to tell you how wonderful it was to see your heart and what you were chasing after. And now… ” his voice trailed away.

“And now, what?”

“Now you’re just like her,” he said. 

“Like who?”

“Olivia, the way you treat guys, the way you use them to get ahead,” he stopped “She may be shallow but at least she’s honest.”

“Oh please,” I said. “You and Olivia are never going to happen. I’m so sick of hearing you talk about her.”

“I’m not caught up on her,” he started to say something else, but I cut him off.

“I can’t believe this. After all of this time you’re still defending her. You know she used you in the exact same way that she’s using every other guy she meets in this city and suddenly you’re telling me that she’s this saint of a person?”

Michael had a painted look of regret on his face, the type caused by the words of someone who has spoken both too much and too little. We both stopped and breathed in the air around us, remembering where we were. The office had become suddenly quiet with the exception of the coffee dripping like hot rain against the pot.

“You know what, Michael?” My voice was soft and slow. “You do the same thing I do. Sports reporting isn’t changing anything either. You just push scores around on a page and call it a day.”

“You’re right.” 


“It’s true, Jay. That’s why I’m quitting. Gave my two week’s notice to Mr. Kleffman today,” he said. “I’m going to go where I can do more than push scores on a page.”

“Michael, listen, I didn’t mean–” 

But I was too late, Michael was already marching long strides toward his office door.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

a day in the life of a work in progress

Crafting gives me major anxiety.

It's the pasting. The glitter. The paint. The yarn. The artistic choices. The trips to Michael's, where the aisles are too thin and the baskets are too wide. Overpriced fake flowers (pet peeve) and burlap.

It might also be my left handedness. The fact that everything I draw becomes smeared and foggy.

Then it's the mess. It's like childhood bombs filled with scraps of paper and markers have detonated and your kitchen table is suddenly at war.

The perfectionist in me does not like having a work-in-progress. It likes to be done with a project. It likes to rest in completion and a job well done.

With crafts, the spools of thread are always turning. Stitches from a thin, sharp needle may stop weaving in and out of cloth, but the hunger for creation doesn't.

A few early mornings a week, two friends and I meet at my favorite coffee shop. We write together, and we battle out stories in our minds and Google Drive.

I know that God has to be there, because we are the "two or more" that have gathered. It's just the three of us, our laptops and our coffee mugs.

This week we were talking about a married couple whose story we're telling together. We talked about love and what it means. And what we want these characters to convey.

One friend who has a brand new daughter took a slow sip of his coffee and tried to tell us what it's like to love like a father. Like a creator.

"It's really hard to explain," he said. "I've never loved anyone so instantly. And she didn't even have to do anything to deserve it."

He spoke very quietly, like he was hushing his infant to sleep, and we could just barely hear him over the hissing of the espresso machine.

But the thesis of his words seemed very clear: his newborn daughter is a work in progress. And he loves her for who she is. Even when it's difficult.

It's the same with this manuscript I have. (Y'all didn't think I'd shut up about it just because November is over, did you? Silly!). Not that having a few hundred pages of words is anything like having a child. I'm definitely not cleaning up after it, and  it doesn't scream at me at 2 a.m., but it's something that I love and that is a part of who I am.

It's nowhere near finished. And the part of me that hates crafting mumbles and groans. It's messy. It's disorganized. It's a chaotic web of characters and suffering story lines.

Then I read a sentence where I've said exactly what I meant. A few words are strung together and a trap door falls loose, and I'm dropped into the little world that I've created. It's not an Austen, or a Bronte, or even a Rowling, but I made it.

And then I realize that I am a craft. That I am messy. And disjointed. And smudgy, and at times not very well put together. Maybe my disdain for crafts comes from my willingness to be complete. To be solid and stitched together. To be done with learning and changing.

Maybe there's a part of God that loves me like my friend loves his daughter. Or like how I am becoming friends with my story again. Maybe God sees what we have the potential to be, and loves pruning and guiding and teaching us. Telling stories through our lives.

Maybe God loves his craft. His little majestic works in progress. Each of us. Every part of us. Mess and all.

photo credit: ollanani via photopin cc

photo credit: Ines Seidel via photopin cc

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

my addiction to ambition

Well, friends. December has crept into our calendars just like scarves and coats have found their way into our wardrobes.

Where did the month of November go?

I woke up the day after finishing a 50,000-word manuscript in 30 days, and didn't really know what to do. There was a certain emptiness hanging over me. And I kind of forgot how to have a morning routine without trying to crank out 1667 words each day.

I sort of just started stumbling around having a strong hankering for coffee and a vague longing to open myself up to a new, fictional world that was all within my control.

Then I realized that I had replaced prayer time with manuscript-writing.

It happened gradually. I kept telling myself that I'd do it later. Then it just fell off the precipice of my "to-do" list. Almost choosing to quit me before I could rightfully fire it.

But now Advent is here, and I'm grateful. Because it's time to make space with a habit that was easy to procrastinate.

Ambition to finish that story replaced my spiritual life.  I was addicted to controlling a story. Controlling characters, exposition, grammar, syntax, page margins, words. I had power, hunched over my laptop like some sort of cartoon-villain plotting to rule the world.

I finished a story. I freaked out my new roommate (who witnessed me writing with the hood of my sweatshirt tied so tightly around my face that only my eyes were exposed more times than any sane person should). Had a friendly competition with a writing buddy and became quite addicted to Red Bull and pull-and-peel Twizzlers.

All for the low, low cost of becoming a stranger to my Savior.

Ambition can be like nostalgia for the future.

You take a step back and realize that you're not as firmly planted as you think you are. Your friends are pairing off, two by two, marching down the aisles of churches and grocery stores. Walking hand in hand through honeymoons and delivery rooms.

And all you ever do is march with fire in your hands. The flames that beg you to reach higher and higher.

And before you know it, you've foregone all you know is right and well. You tell yourself that you'll read your Bible tomorrow. And that you don't owe your friends or coworkers anything. That it's time to pursue your big girl calling.

You make all of these decisions without spending a flash in prayer.

Calling, perhaps, isn't something that you can ever step into and start. Or really even fight for. Maybe if we have a calling, a true force or formula for how we should be using our gifts and skills, we're already living it out.

Maybe we don't have to fight so hard. And maybe we don't have to feed ambition.

Maybe being a follower of Christ is more than enough.

P.S. There are going to be a few changes around the MWWF blog very shortly. Stay tuned for details, because there is exciting news underway!

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