Thursday, December 22, 2016

Christmas (Stop and Smell the Baby Head!)

Darlene Love performing Christmas
(Baby Please Come Home) one final time on
The Late Show with David Letterman.
You know what I miss? Darlene Love singing Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) every year on The Late Show with David Letterman. In its absence, I’ve been watching this video of the last time she did it. It’s so perfect… her voice, the wall of sound, the set, her dress and hair… and when it starts to snow, I start to cry! Every time!! It’s just about the coolest, Christmas-y thing!!

And lest you protest that Christmas is NOT about snow and pop songs and glamorous ladies in gorgeous red gowns, consider casting this tune as a gospel song. See, Darlene Love loves her some Jesus. Her father was a minister, so of course she grew up singing gospel music. If you watch this video, you can see that she is completely on board with our Lord and Savior! I love the part where she says the Holy Spirit spoke to her through this song that we’re talking about right now!!!

And while Christmas Baby Please Come Home will never speak to me as pointedly and directly as it did Ms. Love, I hear it as an invitation from God to mankind—among the hustle and bustle of the season—to connect with Him. 

If you’re a Christian... forget all the cooking and shopping and wrapping and all that stuff that MUST get done before the 25th...  and snuggle up to Jesus personally. Lean in and get a good whiff of His immense love and grace.* Be the Mary in the Mary v. Martha story! You know that story in Luke: 
As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” 
Mmm... baby head... go on, take a whiff!!
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” 
And if you’re not a Christian, then... Baby, Please Come Home! Nothing would please Him more!

*Since the Christmas story is about Jesus as a baby, I just thought about how whenever I hold my friends Jim and Lisa's baby Charlie (pictured, right), I take a huge whiff of baby head! Who can resist?!!!

Sunday, December 4, 2016

He hadn't stopped Christmas from coming – it came!

Our cards through
the years
So.... this might be the sourest Christmas thing you'll read all year, but don't worry – it ends well!! Here goes...


I’m not proud of it, but I’ve been kind of obsessed with what Donald Trump is doing. What oddly inappropriate person is he appointing? What childish thing is he tweeting? What incredibly unpresidential thing is he doing? What colossal lie is he telling? But this is not how I want to live my life, and the other day I realized that if I allow this to continue, it’s going to flat out RUIN my Christmas!

I thought, “Someone ought to make a meme of Donald Trump as the Grinch and call it ‘the Donald who stole Christmas.’ ” And I’m a graphic artist – I could do it… One year our family Christmas card featured BILL as the Grinch! I’ve done all kinds of photoshop magic for our cards… but I’m not going to do the Donald as the Grinch….

Because, as the Whos down in Who-ville discovered, no matter what the big, grinchy orange guy does, Christmas is UNSTEALABLE!!! Right? He can be the biggest jerk in the world as he is wont to do, but… the no room in the inn, the baby in the manger, the star of Bethlehem, the shepherds and the wisemen… it all still happened!! And it's so much more than that story. It's the story that saves the world, man. Saves – present tense. It's saving it even as we speak!

The day after the election – I was just plum shattered. I know the results were good news for some people, but I was scared that a guy who just doesn’t seem very smart would have his finger on the red button. I was hurt for all the people that felt marginalized by the election results. And I was disappointed in Christian leaders who supported such a hater for president.* 

Anyway, that Wednesday, the only thing that consoled me was reminding myself over and over… that God is with us. He’s with us. He’s here. He’s real, and He’s with us. That’s what Emmanuel means, by the way – God with us. And that’s Christmas… and no one can steal it because it’s magnificent. It’s for every race, political party and gender... it's physical and also spiritual, and it’s now and also eternal. In the lovely words of the prophet Isaiah:

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end.
Can I get an AMEN everybody? 

*I realize too, that some Christians may be disappointed in ME… that my vote didn’t consider the rights of unborn children above all things… and I get that… I just feel like the other option is pro-life in other ways.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thank you, thank you very much... (repost... sorry!)

The place mats that made Bill glad
Because I'm apparently incapable of coming up with something new, here's a Thanksgiving-y repost from days of yore - 2012 to be exact! Happy Thanksgiving, y'all!

Stores like Pottery Barn and Williams Sonoma are fun to browse in, but at our income level, browsing is mostly what’s going on in there for us. Sometimes, though, they put stuff on sale, and we can’t resist. Like last winter when Williams-Sonoma put a Cuisinart ice cream maker with two freezer bowls on sale for $50... And sometimes they put the seasonal stuff on deep discount, and that’s always fun, 'cos our house is all about holidays. We love’em, I tell ya.

So the other day, when we saw these Beatrix Potter Peter Rabbit laminated cork-backed place mats on sale for $5 each, they pretty much jumped into my hands. So we brought them home and replaced, yes, the Christmas mats that were still somehow gracing our table. (Bill’s mat was so sticky and gross no matter how many times I cleaned it that I had to throw it away!) And that night when Bill was setting the table, he spotted them – brilliant, observant child that he is. He let out a little gasp, and ran up and hugged me, saying over and over: “Thank you, thank you, thank you!” Of course my heart melted... Other times, when he’s having a great time – like last night when we let him stay up late to watch a movie with Rowan Atkinson who is famous for playing Mr. Bean – he’ll exclaim, “I love you, Mom!” (or “I love you, Dad!” – depending on who he’s with.) I have to say I’m glad when he does stuff like this because it shows that he’s not rocking that “sense of entitlement” I’ve heard about. No thanks to us, I might add – as parents go, we’re terribly indulgent. But I find it hard to not shower him with ... everything! Although I like to make sure he gets more affection and hugs than STUFF...

The movie that made Bill glad
So the other night, I woke up around 4:30 a.m... Grace tells me that this is normal as we get older. Nice. So after I had peed, I’m lying in bed and I suddenly felt huuuugely convicted: The way Bill acted when he saw those mats, the way he yells out, “I love you!” at random happy times... that’s how I should be behaving all the time with God. And, really, I hardly ever just thank God for things. Ooooppsss... Now, fortunately I have an oh-so-soft, but decidedly firm cushion of grace around me... but if God gets even a drop of the warm fuzzies I feel when Bill says thanks, then I should be doing it much more often. Every night, though my cooking is marginal at best, Tom says thank you after our dinner... whether I’ve made something from scratch or just thrown a couple of hotdogs on the George Foreman... And it’s always so nice to those two little words, “Thank you!”

So, I was lying in bed there feeling totally bummed at my failure to give them to God, the One who really, really warrants it. Even on a day like Thanksgiving, which is, of course, designed specifically for this purpose, I’m often more concerned with other things like watching the parade, fixing the meal, dealing with relatives... And at church, while we’re supposed to be singing and praising God, I’m thinking about the excellent arrangements, the harmonies I’m trying out, whether I’m embarrassing my husband by dancing a little jig, or what I’m doing the rest of the day...

I’ve been reading this crazy book by Neal Stephenson called Anathem, in which the intellectuals are cloistered like monks. They focus on intellectual concerns only, without considering questions of theology. When events cause the main character to leave the cloister and he meets an outside person who believes in God, he has the following thoughts: 

Every day should be for
giving thanks!
“If you sincerely believed in God, how could you form one thought, speak one sentence, without mentioning Him? Instead of which [religious people] would go on for hours without bringing God into the the conversation at all. Maybe his God was remote from our doings. Or – more likely – maybe the presence of God was so obvious to him that he felt no more need to speak of it than I did to point out, all the time, that I was breathing air.”

It would be great to think that that’s how it is with me – that I’m so into God, and so grateful, that I’m breathing it – but truthfully, I’m just distracted most of the time. And, most likely, ungrateful and feeling entitled. It’s not pretty, but... that’s what I’m working with here. Maybe the Bible urges us so often to be thankful because the writers know we have to be told – it doesn't come naturally to us.

So what did I do when I realized this wretched thought? Well, the only thing I COULD do at the moment... I lay there praying, “I’m sorry! Thank you!” over and over. Just like Paul says in Romans: “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!” God Himself is the answer to our wretched ungratefulness! Mostly I think that ANY time my thoughts are drawn to God, it must be a gift from God Himself. So... I’m grateful that He pushed into my possibly peri-menopausal nocturnal musings and made me thankful, however brief that shot of light was. How to make it last? I don’t know... make a habit of counting my blessings? I guess that’s a good place to start... 

In the meantime, after you listen to this song by Sam and Dave, I’m going to guess that you’ll be feeling at least a little bit grateful.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

My Special Huggy Bear Recipe

Special huggy bear chef
When Bill was little, he would get out plastic bowls and spoons and concoct mixtures of odd things like water, gummy bears, food coloring, Cheez-its, milk, etc… whatever I would let him have. It always looked disgusting and I always only pretended to eat it… and he always called it his “Special Huggy Bear Recipe.”

Now that he’s 12, his “Special Huggy Bear Recipe” consists of a Klondike bar on a plate with caramel syrup and a spritz of whipped cream… A tad more sophisticated, and something I would definitely eat. I guess I’ve made it sound like he’s always in the kitchen mixing it up, but really he’s not. His usual method for acquiring victuals is lying around and saying, “Mom can you make me some…” 

And he actually likes my cooking – which is weird. I mean, if you’ve been reading my stuff long, you will have deduced that I am not a great cook. What with my previous food issues, my lack of time, the picky eaters who live in my house, and my unflagging apathy, … it’s just not in me to be a daring or precise cook. I mean, when it comes down to it, I’d much rather be watching a movie or reading a book. 
Thank you, God, for avocados.

That said, I am an adequate cook that sometimes follows recipes, sometimes improvises, sometimes just makes sh*t up. And since I’ve been home all summer on account of my academic job, I’ve been able to take a little time with my lunch, which I have gotten down to an science. And even though I am the LAST person who should be giving out self-devised recipes, and even though you probably don't need ME to tell you how to make this, I’m going to do it anyway because this is the best thing I’ve put in my mouth in a while — honestly the ingredients make it pretty fool proof. God sure did a good job with avocados, didn’t He? 

Poached egg version


2 slices whole wheat bread 
2 tsp. butter 
1/2 ripe avocado
1 boiled egg, sliced
lemon juice

crushed red pepper

Toast the bread on one side in a toaster oven. Turn it over, spread with butter and toast the other side.

While bread is toasting, mash up the avocado with a squeeze of lemon juice and a dash of salt.

When bread is finished toasting, put it on a plate and spread the buttered sides with the mashed avocado. Top this with slices of boiled egg.

Sprinkle with salt, then with crushed red pepper. 

You can substitute the boiled egg with two poached eggs – one egg on each slice. You will not be hungry until dinner if you eat it this way. You could also use olive oil instead of butter if you wanted to, but butter is just so … buttery, am I right?

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

And Now, for Some Blatant Advertising (repost)

I'm reposting this because... well, you can probably figure out why...! :-P

This isn’t going to be one of those spiritual, thought-provoking posts that (in my mind) some of the others are... No, this is just a bit of housekeeping... revising an earlier misspeak, along with a bit of blatant advertising... 

Because of Nina – we're on, as the
Fleshtones say, "the right side 
of a good thing."
A month or so ago I wrote about our little episode with head lice... and, like so many things, I may have spoken a bit too soon. Yep, I thought we were in the clear, but.... noooooooo....! I kept feeling the itchies, despite repeated treatment and extensive nitpicking sessions. And no, it wasn’t, as I first suspected, “all in my head.”

And as with many problems we begin with trying to solve them ourselves only to find that we must in the end hire a professional. A season of melancholy turns to full blown depression and we stew in it – sometimes confiding in a friend, and finally we may seek professional help. Got poison ivy? Reach for the calamine lotion (rhymes with...), discuss home remedies with the Graedons... until you can’t stand it anymore and find yourself at your family doctor begging for a prescription unguent. 

And this is how we found ourselves after more than a month of homeopathic, over the counter and prescription lice solutions, calling a lice eradication service. Until this summer, I had no clue such a thing even existed! And then, I thought, “It’s probably reeeally expensive... just for rich people... people who have money to burn and are too lazy to do it themselves...” But now I know, this service is also the refuge of the desperate. I mean, I absolutely DON’T have any flammable money, and I had expended a LOT of effort trying to do it myself... I just didn’t have the psychic energy or training to solve the problem myself. Even with the help of my great friend Grace, it just proved too much... and I don't think I'm out of line when I say that Grace had reached the end of her rope as well!

I swear they aren’t paying me a cent to plug them... but I am totally going to do it. It's called Lice Happens and here’s how it works: You call and someone answers. You don’t have to leave a message or go through a bunch of “for English press 1” stuff... You set up an appointment – usually pretty soon after the call, and the “lice lady” shows up at your door with all the equipment needed to render you and yours LICE FREE. I am not kidding.

The “lice lady” who services this area is named Nina and she is super cool. Not only does she get the job done, but she has great taste in music and art and all. You see, you end up chewing the fat a bit while she does her thing, so I was able to size her up, both professionally and as a fellow human being.

No, I don't have money to 
burn... I'm just desperate!
Anyway, she checks the entire family... then all she does is wet your hair and spray some foamy stuff on it – which, she told us, is completely natural and non-toxic. It loosens up the lice and egs and then she has this amazing comb that is like.... velcro... or sandpaper... or something. Whatever it’s like, it really scrapes the pestilence out of your hair. Anyway, with this super lice-catcher comb, she combs your hair over and over and over and over until no lice at any stage of development come out on that super-sticky comb. 

For kids, she’s got a little DVD player so they can watch a movie while she works... because it can be a tedious process. But absolutely NOT as tedious as sitting there while your clueless mom tries to pick each individual nit out of your hair. And when she’s done, she gives you instructions to carry on with the treatment for the next couple of weeks. And again, the stuff you have to do is NOT like picking over an entire head of hair every day. It’s more of a quick comb-through while you’re washing your hair.

And yes, it DOES cost a bit. But you know what? I had already spent a ton of money on special combs, over-the-counter remedies, prescription remedies, doctor visits... I am now wishing I had just called Nina to begin with! Because, as I stated before, sometimes you just have to eat your pride and call in a professional. Not only do I feel UN-lousy for the first time in a long time, but I made a very cool friend.

So, just for Nina, here's a song by the Fleshtones that I think she'd like.

Friday, July 8, 2016

I'm planning to be here.

Because one of my main clients is a university, I am having the novel experience of working at half mast this summer. As the summer approached, I began to develop ambitious plans of what I would accomplish with my impending free time, most of which involved cleaning and organizing. 

And what is it that James says about the arrogance of making plans?
Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them. (James 4)
James warns us about the
perils of making plans.
(I’ve always thought that last line seems sort of out of place, and now I’m wondering if it actually means something like: "What if you make a plan to do something good – but don’t follow through? That’s going to mess with your conscience!" Doesn't that make more sense?)

Anyway, despite my elaborate (and apparently sinful) planning, I’ve pretty much accomplished very little… besides just relaxing and hanging out with my awesome son Bill.

Besides my resolve to clean and organize, I really wanted to write some good, meaty blog posts but… so far, I’ve managed a grand total of ONE. Why is it that when I’m busy as crap, I get blog-worthy thoughts just piling up in my stressed out brain but have no time to make them readable for you? Conversely, I’m sitting here with time on my hands but absolutely no deep thoughts whatsoever. 

Could it be the five twelve-year-old boys chattering away in the background? Could it be that empty life = empty mind? Or that with all this fun I’m having, I’m not thinking about God? (Which brings to mind what kindergarten Bill said before he got out of the car for his first Field Day: “Mommy, I’m worried that I will be having so much fun at field day that I’ll forget to think about you.” It’s a real danger, isn’t it?!)

Okay, let’s go back to the five 12-year-old boys that are sitting in my living room playing Minecraft and just talking talking talking… “Iron golems don’t give out roses out for no reason” and “I think we should each have vaults of our private stuff” and “Who has black dye? black wool? an ink sack? anybody?” And this is all very well and good because they’re still behaving in a fairly innocuous un-post-puberty way… because, and here’s my point… I’M NOT READY TO HAVE A TEENAGE BOY.

I'm here for you, Bill!
In some ways we’re already there… the gallons of milk that I’m constantly buying, the size 10 shoes that I’m always tripping over in the hall, the middle school dances I chaperoned, the way he occasionally washes his own sheets… But in other ways, he’s still just a kid. I mean, he’s playing Minecraft, dang it! He’s obsessed with Batman, he covers his eyes when people kiss on TV, and his fascination with LEGOs is far from over. 

I’m trying to keep an open mind about this… I mean, I’m sure teenage boys have their good points… right? They sleep late so they’re lower maintenance... and already I’m making use of Bill’s increased height to reach things on high shelves! But again, I’m NOT ready for this. How will I handle it? I have no tools in my skill bag to handle what’s coming. Dating, driving, identity crises, bad hair days… and all the sheer adolescent angst that accompanies this alarming phase.

I recently had the pleasure of holding a friend’s 4-week-old baby and it was so wonderful… that sweetie went right to sleep. His mom said, “He just likes to be up next to a warm body.” And seriously, that’s what I’m good at. Being the nice soft warm body that lulls the child to sleep. I wonder how I can translate it into being a good mom to a teenager? Hopefully just being present counts for something… because sometimes that’s the best I can do… and this summer, I AM present!

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Yeah, I Went There...

In my childhood, my family regularly attended a Methodist Church, where as a teen I also participated enthusiastically in the youth group and sang in the choir. College, however, took me on a detour through some quite … interesting … phases… Until in my mid-twenties, when I jack-knifed back into a full-on obsession with Christianity.

The church I grew up in
If you need a “birthday” or “born again day” I would consider this to be it, rather than the mild interest of my youth... although I'm not altogether sure how that works. So we’re talking the eighties… When it all got political… you know, the Moral Majority and all that stuff. I attended a church that was long on love, loose in style, but pretty tightly orthodox, theology-wise. People took the Bible literally, studied it fiercely, nodded their heads to James Dobson, and worried about the world.

There was very little grey area, so the how-tos of Christianity were pretty easy to follow… including the fact that we were all Republicans. And yes, by we, I mean me too. I hung out with a bunch of people who believed in trickle-down economics… that healthy sex happens between two heterosexual married people… that babies should be carried to term under nearly every circumstance… one of these people was actually one of those scary avid proponents of 2nd Amendment rights.

These days it’s easy to look at Christians and see only the kind of rabid conservative, hateful, person who is freaked out by the possibility of running into a transgender person in the bathroom. So it may be difficult to believe these friends of mine in the 80s/90s also believed in helping the poor and needy… in a very in-the-trenches way. They volunteered at homeless shelters, built homes for Habitat for Humanity, fed and cared for AIDS patients… and took care of each other tirelessly. 

While the Republicans one hears about on the news seem to hate everyone, these people were some of the most selfless people I’ve ever met. They believed that God loves every single person in the world and wants to save them. They just thought that trickle-down economics would provide jobs for the poor… and that the ultimate way to love people is to bring them to the One who loves them the most and the only One who can save them – that is, God… And part of coming to God involves repentance.

Honestly, I still have friends like this. At Christmas time, when the field of candidates was much larger, I was at a dinner and one woman piped up, “Who are y’all going to vote for?” The group then went on to discuss the Republican candidates as if they were the only ones on the table. And, coward that I am, I just clammed up. My friend Grace said later, “I wanted to say so bad, ‘Julie likes Bernie Sanders!’ ” Because I really do, y’all. I love how he cares for the poor and wants to change things. I’m not sure he’s the practical answer, but I do like him.

And I also love my friends and know where they’re coming from. I think for many the primary issue is abortion. I remember having a discussion with a guy and saying to him, “You act like abortion is the only issue.” And he said, “It is.” And, truthfully I love babies so dang much it is like a knife to my own heart to think of someone killing them, even if they do look like a blob of cells at the time. But there are other aspects to this debate. I am pretty conflicted about it, myself.

Mostly, though, my political feelings have jack-knifed since my early days as a Christian, although my theology has not. I still believe in the statements of the Apostles' creed, and the sweet simplicity of John 3:16… It’s how these beliefs relate to who I’m going to support in any given election that has shifted. Although I don’t believe that any political party embodies the Christian faith and its moral ideals. And no politician or party can save anyone.

If you’ve read my stuff before, you won’t be surprised to learn that this is all just a really long meandering introduction to something else that I wanted to say… And that is, I was at church on Sunday, and I found myself almost a little bit dreading what conservative thing might be said from the pulpit. I usually dread it for my husband’s sake, who is really liberal, but on this day, HE WASN’T EVEN THERE!!! 

When I realized what was happening in my head, I felt REALLY convicted about how cynical I’ve become… about my own people. And I had to repent. I had to try to let go of the anger and suspicion that I had built up in my heart. It would be impossible for a whole church full of people to agree on every single issue, but we DO agree on the love of God and people's need to know about it. 
Prince, y'all!
Attribution: Micahmedia at en.wikipedia

And the truth is I have NEVER seen or heard anyone in my church say or do anything hateful, and I HAVE seen them do all kinds of loving and helpful things. You should see how they rally ‘round when somebody is suffering. When I was nearly killing myself with anorexia back in the day, they didn’t see a selfish, skeletal, drug-taking, promiscuous goth chick. They saw someone who needed God’s love. And their love. 

Of course, I’m not saying every single Christian is made of only love, (*cough* Westboro Baptist Church) or negating any pain anyone may have felt from clumsy Christians... but I am saying… well… I know even the mildest of us look kinda judgey with our insistence on Jesus, but… it’s just 'cos we love you. So don’t judge us too harshly… 

Most of us are just trying to figure out what's right and how to do it. I mean, even Prince believed in the exclusive claims of Jesus, right? Of course when you’re Prince, well... you're PRINCE! And we can’t all be Prince, now can we? 

We CAN dig this rockin' song by him, though!

Sunday, May 22, 2016

12 Tips for New College Grads :-P

My awesome niece Gabriel
Four falls ago, I wrote a column for the Chapel Hill News in which I gave advice to incoming college freshmen. In it I advised young folks to keep up with their class reading and follow their syllabus… and date musicians and NOT date musicians. It was mainly written for my cool niece Gabriel who was entering Duke. And now, after a successful college career she’s graduated, and I thought…exactly what advice do I have for a new college graduate? Not that Gabriel needs my advice – she's brilliant! ...But what would I tell my younger self?

First of all, my younger self was an idiot and could have used some good advice. Secondly, my younger self was an idiot and wouldn’t have taken any advice! Thirdly, it all worked out anyway, so I’ve got that going for me… which is nice.

Anyway, if you are super ambitious and business/career-minded, I’m afraid I can’t advise you. That was never my thing. However, if your goal, as mine was, is to stay afloat and have fun, I have some great tips for you – some are tongue-in-cheek tidbits based on my actual life, while some are pieces of actual advice that might really be helpful. It's up to you to figure out which is which!

1. Live where you want to live… where your friends are and where the stuff you like to do is. The job can come second. If you can find a job in your field, AWESOME – if not, get one vaguely related… or even do retail or food service – whatever will keep you afloat. And whatever it is, just grab hold of it and work hard.

2. Find a cheap living situation – the more roommates the better! If you are having fun, you won’t care that you’re sharing a bedroom with three other people and a house with a bunch more. 

3. Fill up on beans, rice, popcorn, ramen noodles and bread. Find out where the good, cheap all-you-can-eateries are, and occasionally go there and eat all you can.

The shaggy-haired,
pencil-thin boyfriend
of my dreams.
4. Eat one meal a day. While this practice may steer you towards an eating disorder, as it did me, it will save you a boat load of lunch money and calories.

5. Shop at thrift shops. Buy a lot of black items so that everything matches. Turn these clothes and those you already have into cool outfits by adding concha belts and/ or vintage items from your grandma’s closet, and pairing with Doc Martens, cowboy or granny boots, or Chuck Taylors.

6. Never spend money on drugs. If someone offers to share, though… um. Don’t take them.
7. Take the money you’ve saved from eating crap, sharing a house with 10 people, shopping at thrift shops, and not buying drugs, and spend it on live music shows. See and be seen. Dance. Meet the shaggy-haired, pencil-thin, heart-breaking musician boyfriend of your dreams. Maybe not Mr. Right, but Mr. Right Now…

8. Read a lot of books. Later, when you have a partner and/or kids, you won’t have near enough time to read, and the world is full of words arranged just so into books that want to melt into your heart.

9. Take a lot of walks.  Being outside will clear your head... Plus, your body is young and resilient – it is easier now for you to be in shape than it ever will be again.


10. Go to Europe… or wherever you want to… while you’re still young enough to stay at hostels. I actually didn’t do this, but wish I had.

11. Go to church. I didn’t do this either, but wish I had. Regular attendance at an event where people are looking at the Almighty will keep you grounded. Even if you don’t understand or agree with everything… it will take you outside yourself for just an hour. 

12. Another thing I rarely did: enjoy some silence. Turn off everything for a little while every day. Hear yourself think. If so led, talk to your Maker. Listen for the answers.

Okay, I’m pretty sure that even if you are an idiot like I was, you can tell where the list takes a turn from idiotic things I did to advice that might actually help you… And yes – “idiotic” is the word that comes to mind. Along with “immature” and “sinner, poor and needy.” 

Although I hope you're smarter than me... I honestly don’t think I would trade my misspent youth for a well-spent youth… not that I am advising you to mis-spend your youth. Please don’t… I’m actually not really sure what I’m saying… Just… LIVE! Be young for a while… just don't wait too long to come around to numbers 11 and 12… because that’s where real life is.

PHOTO CREDIT: My friend Alecia, with whom I lived during much of that magic time!

Thursday, April 7, 2016

In which I exhume the lede

Recently I put up this post, and I have felt not quite right about it ever since… and I’ve been toying with taking it down, but I can’t really sort out in my head what makes me feel weird. Maybe it’s mixture of reasons…?

First and most obviously, maybe it’s just not a great post. A totally viable option. 

Or maybe I just feel weird about complaining about my finances when, compared to a lot of people I’m doing quite well. 

Plus, I worry that if someone is just hovering around the edges of Christianity trying to make up their mind, I would give them the wrong impression of the Christian life… like, “What? I’m not supposed to enjoy being able to pay my bills? This Christianity confuses and frightens me!”

Or is it that strange uneasy feeling that comes with perimenopause – that nothing I do is quite right? 

And then… I just might finish that book. I mean, never say never, right? 

All these are good reasons why I could be feeling so iffy. But it wasn’t until the other night while Tom and I were watching Girls, that I may have figured it out! If you’ve never watched this show, well… let’s just say if you look up TMI in the dictionary, you’ll find a picture of the cast of this show. It’s about four twenty-something girls (surprise!) in NYC getting up to hijinks and basically just trying to figure out who they are and what they want to do with their lives.

As a bonafide grown-up, I often find myself cringing and covering my eyes while I watch them make dumb mistakes … but then I remember how I was when I was that age… I’m not going to give you any gory details, but let’s just say that it’s a miracle I am still alive. But that was before… before I was saved and became the paragon of virtue and sound logic that is sitting here in my clean and perfect house and life typing this for you to read. (Ha!)

Anyway, I think that the key takeaway from Girls is not their shenanigans, but how self-absorbed they are. In the most recent episode, they go to watch their friend perform in a weird sort of participatory play about apathy, and the whole time each of them watches the play with about 10 percent of their attention, while with the rest of their awareness they act out their own personal dramas. 

Marnie has just left her husband Desi. She makes sure to tell Ray, who is obsessed with her, that she only wants to be alone. Hannah insists that her boyfriend discuss their relationship while he remains determined NOT to make the scene that Hannah so desperately wants. Meanwhile Jessa worries about how Hannah will react when she finds out she’s with her old boyfriend Kylo Ren – I mean Adam. 

Me me me me me me...! :-P
And that’s what my post was like… all about me. I’m all, “waaah, I’m materialistic,” when the whole drama of life and the gospel are constantly playing out around me. It was all “me me me,” when it could have been “But God, God, God!” And sure I tacked Him on at the end, but He should be the prime mover and shaker in the drama that is my life… Not me. It’s the grace of God, not the weight of my sin that drives me. Or, again, it should be.

So maybe it was the structure and distribution of the post that bothered me. As if I were writing an article about the smallpox vaccine, but mostly just went on and on about the horrors of smallpox... then maybe I mentioned the immunization in a footnote. In journalism school I learned that this is called “burying the lede.” Although… I guess creative writing is different from news writing. Sermons often begin with an anecdote, right? It makes the whole thing relatable, which I guess I am always trying to do. 

Anyway… enough about me.* Let’s talk about God! The guys who wrote the Bible said some really cool and beautiful things about Him. John 3:16** is a classic, and you probably already know it, so here's another one I really like
“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’ (Acts 17)
Isn’t that awesome? And maybe it comes at the end of this little thinkpiece, but it’s definitely the lede.

*Because now this post is all, "Waaah, I'm self-absorbed...!"

**For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.