Friday, June 24, 2016

171: free verse on a summer off work

Three day weekends and summer vacations are always difficult for me. I excitedly anticipate the time off and then hit the hazard button of no schedule. I am a person who thrives on a schedule. And I'm also a person who will lazily stay up til 2am, sleep til 11am, and eat icecream every day if a higher purpose doesn't shake me into a more productive lifestyle.

School ended, I packed, and then off to Boston and Maine I went with a bunch of wonderful people from around the country that I have been building friendships with over the last two years. You know what it's like when you get back from vacation, especially one involving no sleep and seeing people you won't see again for awhile? You start hitting the return-to-normal blues. Combine that with absolutely nothing to do *cough* okay, I guess I could, you know, clean up these piles of clothes and papers, and, ok, lesson plan for history next school year, and, well, there is lots TO do, but nothing that MUST be done. Anyway, it's summer. And with summer comes adjustments. Some of it is glorious--like being able to cook for my family more (during the school year my mom, whose love language is firmly entrenched in "acts of service" makes my breakfast and lunch every single morning; summer is my time to reignite the homemaker in me and be a blessing back) and being able to hang out with my dog, who is currently depressed that I'm still awake but not depressed enough to go slink into the other room where sleeping is happening.

Summer is my opportunity to make wise choices. I'd rather have those choices imposed on me, like in a work schedule. And yet, don't you dare tell me what to do over my summer because I like making my own choices. See? Confusing.

I've been having fun lately journaling some of my thoughts in free verse. So here is my free verse on summer.

Waddle, waddle--Make Way for Ducklings in Boston Common!

Blank spaces
Where stone stood in solid unity before
Cracked open to allow space
Spread wide to open into summer

Sleep, time, plans
Trips, high, people
Return, restore, amiss
A crevice
A crack between the duties of the year
And the thrill of vacation wanderings
Now in no-man's land
A blank space to be filled.

Thoughts, hopes, habits
Others, conversations, input
Alone, yet not
Full of tasks put off
Yet empty of what is normally done

A canvas splotted with
Haphazard paint

Better, should be better
Summer, should be summer
Intentional, but zombie-ing aimlessly
Like a tumbleweed
Thither I go

Will I find the strength
The fortitude
The wisdom
To pain the canvas of summer well?

Will I rest
Be restored
Find grace and joy and peace
And unique to summer fun
Before the gap closes
And the solid ground of
A school teacher's schedule

lobster traps at the end of a pier in Maine

Sunday, June 12, 2016

170: the love of the bride

I went to a wedding this afternoon in a Japanese tea garden. Jewish tradition merged with Christian faith as the bride circled her groom 7 times, symbolically declaring she would pray a wall of protection around her husband and their love. At the inside reception, under a ceiling strung with lights, we consumed, and had seconds of, Asian-Mexican fusion tacos and kale salad (seriously, some of the best food). Hours of conversation and laughter later, the father/daughter dance started as a standard two-step. It was a song about the Bride, Christ's bride. Then father and daughter parted and stood side by side, lifting hands then twirling, lifting hands then twirling. As the bride looked up, hands raised, the artificial lighting caught the love in her eyes for her heavenly Bridegroom. "The bride," she sang. And suddenly I pictured her representing all of us, collectively, the Bride of Christ. Coming before Him at the end of days, love and joy in our hearts.

As singles sometimes it feels like our love is on hold. No man to love, no children to love, no reason or opportunity to love. And so we store up a little love in our hearts, for children in Sunday School or for family or for God. Sometimes my love for God swells and I am enamored at how amazing He is, how grand, how real. Other times my love wanes a bit as I fill my time with meaningless activities, because what else is calling me forth? Nothing.

Tonight, watching the bride, I realized the love I feel for my Lord is not wasted. It is being stored up. Oh, don't let it be wasted. Don't let it seep out. Store it up, let it grow, so that on that day, the wedding supper of MY Lamb, I can be the joyful bride of which mortal brides are only a reflection. A bride without spot or blemish offering herself, after a lifetime of waiting, abandoning herself into the care of the One who of old died for her to pay the bride price for her, who has been preparing the perfect eternal home for her, who has sealed her with the Holy Spirit and has redeemed her from her filth and shame, who declares her righteous and holy, who has never, ever stopped loving her, thinking of her, expectantly working out the fulfillment of all things for the day when the distance would be traversed, the gap closed, and the two together in blissful, unending fellowship.

Your love isn't wasted. It is what will make that Day of Glory a day of glowing joy.

Clarification: I know as singles God gives us plenteous opportunities to love and serve. I was referring to how it feels sometimes, not how it is when we proactively pursue service.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

169: a date, a connection, a hope, and yet

I went on a date this last Friday. With a guy I met online. Actually, with a guy I had met online 3 years ago and had messaged/emailed with a lot, and then who contacted me again after I viewed his profile recently.

Three hours of in-person conversation later. . . I haven't met many people like him. His philosophical, thinker-kind of conversation and attentiveness to my interaction with him touched a part of me that partly stirred up old demons of when I used to get too much into my own head (too much thinking), and partly stirred up a profoundly personal part of me that rarely sees the light of day these days. I was amazed at how I reacted emotionally after coming home and processing.

I think I liked this guy.

We had a connection (What is that? I don't know, but the glimpse I got made me want more!).

And I barely knew him.

The problem was, I didn't know where he stood spiritually. I knew he claimed to be a Christian, went to a mainline Christian church, and had an obviously Christian worldview. But, because of his personality, and because I was trying to pry without asking point-blank questions, it was impossible to pin him down on his personal walk with the Lord. Like, reliance on Jesus' death and resurrection for his salvation, depth of Bible reading, prayer, and personal commitment to follow Jesus, not just the forms of the Christian faith. So I prayed, and wrestled, and prayed, and wrestled, and texted with him, and got replies, and received texts from him (like, he initiated it!), and was elated, and wrestled with the Lord some more. My journal has been getting good use.

Thankfully, this has only gone on since last Friday. Today is Tuesday.

He called tonight. Thirty minutes of conversation confirmed that we do fit together nicely (at least as much as you can tell from one in-person meeting and one short telephone call). I joked, he laughed his I'm-surprised-you-said-that-but-I-like-it laugh. He made jokes, I laughed because it was nice just to communicate so comfortably and have the hope for this progressing.

And then, somewhere amid the thirty minutes, he dropped the bomb.

He is becoming Mormon.

Say what?

I thank the Lord for answering my prayer SO CLEARLY. And so quickly! I don't have to wonder about his spiritual walk anymore! He is obviously not "the one."

And yet. Not "but," just an "and yet."

I think we actually mutually liked each other. We at least both thought each other interesting. We want the same thing for our future families. We both listen to audiobooks when we drive. I am dealing with the pain of this "prospect"--such a good prospect--draining out of my life. I am sad.

And YET!

Unique as he was, "good" as he was, he was apparently never meant to be a prospect. Why did God put him in my life for such a short time? I do not know, do not need to know. But the hope that my connection with him stirred in me, and the hurt of now-relinquished hope, made me cry out tonight in my journal, "I will keep asking and seeking and knocking until You answer."

Because my God does not give serpents when His children ask for fish, or stones when we ask for bread. Despite how I feel, I'm not missing out, and I didn't lose a good opportunity. And my God says that, like the man who got up in the middle of the night to give his friend food for his traveling guests--how much more will our Father in heaven answer the persistent prayers of His daughters! (Lk. 11:5-8, Mt. 7:7-12, Lk. 18:1)

So that's been my week. On Sunday I wrote in my journal, "I know my God. If He calls me to surrender, it's nothing I haven't done before. He is good". So He is. And so He will continue to be.

How does Admiral Croft's line from Persuasion (1995) go? "And now it's time to begin all over again, with someone else." Something like that. :)

Clarification: God does not promise us spouses. Sometimes He does encourage us to pray for specific things, like a husband, while other times it is enough that we are resting in the joy of His presence without making requests.

girls trip to the beach this weekend

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Book Review: Like Never Before

Melissa Tagg's writing-style is a mix between black and white movie charm and Hallmark feels.

This story is about (A) a news editor who has successfully immersed her broken self in small town life to find belonging, (B) a widowed single dad who just wants to do what is best for his daughter but can't seem to find his way, (C) a long-distance crush that is magically and romantically reciprocated, and (D) the Walker family whose dad you'll wish you could know in real life.

Did I mention the story is Hallmark-esque? It's a feel good, tickle your fancy, warm your heart story. A good way to welcome in summer.

Last time I reviewed one of Melissa Tagg's books I complained that there was not enough difference in how her characters talked. They all seemed to be able to quote old movies, including the football player who talked about Bing Crosby. Thankfully, only the main characters do that this time, and the guy only can do that because those were the kinds of movies his mom used to watch. The author has an amazing ability to write like we actually speak, but I still felt like there wasn't enough differentiation between how different characters spoke. Ah well.

One of my favorite parts is when the main characters are at a fancy dinner with friends and the heroine orders fish, even though she doesn't like fish, because when it came time to order, getting a hamburger suddenly didn't feel dignified enough. Mid-dinner, as she's poking her food, her guy quietly takes a handful of his fries and puts it on her plate, whispering, "You've been eyeing them for twenty minutes." To which she thinks, "God bless him."

I'm sad the story is over, but I follow the author on FB and she's already talking about her next book focusing on brother Beckett.

Because last time I rated Melissa Tagg's book based on a 5 star rating, I'll do so again. I'd give Like Never Before 4.75 stars (because I'm a teacher and I can do that).

Memorable Quotes:
"Again with the questions."

"Just call me Barbara Walters."

He wrinkled his nose. "I just kissed you, [name removed]. And I'm pretty sure at some point tonight--possibly multiple points--I'd like to again. I'd rather not have the picture of you as an eighty-year-old in a pantsuit in my head when I do."


"I was so fascinated by this book."

"Not going to lie, I'm a little fascinated at how fascinated you are."

She looked up, met his eyes. "You interlibrary-loaned a book for me, [name removed]."

He shrugged. "Some guys buy flowers, some guys track down picture books."

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, April 18, 2016

168: the struggle

I'm struggling with not being a mommy today.

With not having a cute little face of my own to call my mom "Granny."

With not being able to ask one of the many moms my age at church if they want to get together for a play date.

I love my school kids. I get so many ridiculous benefits from being a teacher. I get to buy them books and give them time to read. I get to call them mine, and I get to give them "the look" (you know the one your mom used to give you when you were misbehaving?). I get to laugh with them and help them learn multiplication. I get to teach them geography and about other cultures. We even grew carrots and beans and corn together (tho the corn had to go--where would it fit in my classroom??).

So many benefits.

But those students aren't mine. They are simply on loan to me during school hours. And I know that parenting is grueling hard and will stretch you to your limits. And I know I couldn't sleep in on Saturdays or experience a host of other luxuries I enjoy now as a single (and I do enjoy them).

It is okay to at times wish for what one doesn't have. It is okay to have a moment of pain. It is okay to feel the heat of an unexpected rivulet of tears.

It is okay to pause in your life, lift sad eyes up to the Lord, and feel the hurt, before moving on to the next day of abiding in Him and enjoying His blessings.

Today I struggled with not being a mommy.

Psalm 56:13 For You delivered me from death, even my feet from stumbling, to walk before God in the light of life. (HCSB)

Saturday, April 9, 2016

167: time passed; could be my fault; yet God worked

Singleness. It bites ya every once in awhile.

In your less than strong moments, do you ever wonder if it's your fault that you're single? Do you wonder if you messed it up when you were younger? If you were too PICKY (that word :/)? If you didn't put yourself out there enough? Considering my own possible guilt in the matter usually brings anger and hot tears. As if everyone else stumbled on the magic formula while I sabotaged myself.

Even if I did sabotage myself, it wasn't from willfulness. If I "missed out" on a crush some decade or so ago, it was because I didn't know how to bring attraction to myself (still don't!). If I "missed out" on some potentially amazing guy in my 20s, it's because I didn't know that I could give a guy a chance (ie. not snub) unless he was 90-100% marriage material.

The fact is I was not ready earlier. I don't mean God waits until you're "ready," but I can't deny that God has done His work in the years of my singleness, as I know He is still doing, and will continue to do in my singleness. What lessons have I learned as a single, sparing me the pain or disillusionment of learning it while married? Maybe if I had learned about the fallen nature of human beings through my husband instead of through my single relationships I would have become disillusioned about the beauty of marriage. Sometimes I feel this hunger for a guy that is often really hunger for God--I wonder if I had married before realizing that was spiritual hunger if I would have drained my husband dry with possessiveness before realizing I just needed God time. What if I had encountered my own impatience in parenting instead of in teaching? I probably would have been disillusioned again, and my life dreams would have spiraled, instead of accepting that I'm a sinner in need of sanctification.

I accept the blessing of learning some things while a single, not because it is a superior, or inferior, blessing, but because it is my blessing. My lot. My gift.

I'm going to keep messing up in this whole pursuing, being pursued, and being involved in relationships thing. I take comfort in knowing I will have run the race well if I let God do His work in me, circumstances be what they may.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Book Review: Letters to My Daughters: The Art of Being a Wife

You know what I like about marriage books? I like that they keep the dream alive for me. They let me peek at what it could be like to be married.

I'm not sure why I like the idea of the work that being married entails, that being a good wife entails. I'm sure I've just idealized it in my head. As if the interpersonal relationship in a marriage would be any different than the interpersonal relationships I have with other people where I say things I regret or get rubbed the wrong way.

Or is it different? I like to think the rewards of being a husband or wife are different than the rewards of being a son/daughter, coworker, or friend. Being married is a special kind of relationship. I like to think it can't be duplicated in other relationships. There is a reason why God reveals Himself in the Father/child relationship, the friend relationship, the Almighty God relationship, but also in the marriage relationship. It must show something unique.

Ok, but enough of my waxing whatever this is. I did just watch a Hallmark. Two in fact (The Wish List and Soldier Love Story--yay, Pixl Channel on YouTube :)). And yes, I cried. Happy tears.

I asked to review this book because I respect Dennis and Barbara Rainey. I have listened to countless episodes of Dennis Rainey's FamilyLife Today radio broadcast and can attest that he loves his wife and loves marriage. He also has a heart to help men step up and become loving leaders in their homes. I admire that.

Getting this book in the mail was not like getting any ol' other book. It's a beautiful book with water colored pages and quotes in gold lettering. It even comes with its own built-in bookmark!

Mrs. Rainey won me over in the preface. She knows she is a mom of adult daughters, and she knows how to be the Titus 2 older woman without trying to be one of the gang.

Mrs. Rainey comes across nurturing and motherly (maybe even grandmotherly), but she speaks truth. Every chapter focuses on some kind of art. "Marriage is Like Grand Architecture" or "Marriage is Like Masterful Photography." Weird, right? And yet, it works! It really does. The correlations she draws are spot-on. This book is not fluff. It is a compilation of wisdom.

What else can I say? Mrs. Rainey upholds the beauty of marriage at every point, holds forth God's design and purpose, and confronts head-on the problems couples face, sharing how she and Dennis walk through the same issues.

I received a free copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for an honest review.

"How does He describe you? He sees you as the apple of His eye, adopted, as His child, holy and blameless in Christ, a royal heir, and forgiven; always and forever, He sees you and me as forgiven. In the midst of some of our darkest days when I felt very little love for my man, these lenses of faith kept the glimmer of hope alive. I never stopped believing in a God who can do the impossible, which meant my husband was not impossible, I was not impossible, nor was our situation impossible to God.

. . . So when we have conversations about our failures and disappointments, it is always in the context of belief in each other, in the truth of the gospel that we are and can be overcomers. . . .

. . . And if in the moment you can't see a single trait worthy of praising, then cling to the truth of how God sees him and you." --Barbara Rainey, Letters to My Daughters, pp. 175-177