Saturday, March 30, 2013

Shadowlands distraction (vi)

Quotes from the movie Shadowlands about the love of C.S. Lewis

Jack: Will you marry this foolish, frightened old man... who needs you more than he can bear to say... who loves you, even though he hardly knows how?

Joy: The pain then is part of the happiness now. That's the deal.

Harry: But she's not...
Jack: Not my wife. No, how could she be? I'd have to love her, wouldn't I? She'd have to be more important to me than anything in the world. I'd have to be suffering the torments of the damned. The thought of losing her...
Harry: I'm so sorry, Jack. I didn't know.
Jack: Neither did I, Harry.

Jack: Why love, if losing hurts so much? I have no answers anymore: only the life I have lived. Twice in that life I've been given the choice: as a boy and as a man. The boy chose safety, the man chooses suffering. The pain now is part of the happiness then. That's the deal.

21: heart blockade

An ol' homeschool friend shared an odd article a month or so ago on Facebook. It was on guarding your heart.

Or rather, it was against guarding your heart.

You'll have to read it for yourself to understand the whole context of why Emily Maynard "stopped guarding [Her] heart ten years ago," but I have copied some quotes below that stuck out to me. Because, like her, I was an avid proponent of guarding my heart during my teens and early 20s (and perhaps still am?).

". . . I discovered that you can’t shut down part of your heart and not shut down all of it."
 "[The "Guard Your Heart" message] promises us that if we don’t have crushes, or at least don’t admit them, if we never say ‘I love you’ first, if we act detached until the last possible moment before commitment, if we just get married instead of dating, we’ll never have to experience heartbreak and we’ll be okay. It guarantees in a neat, repeatable phrase that we will be in control."
(Maybe this is why I think an arranged marriage would be fabulous?)

"The rules for “Guarding Your Heart” . . . . breed shame because we can’t live up to the ideal put for us: that we can be whole people while avoiding the potential for pain."

"If you really want to be in healthy relationships, stop “guarding” your heart and start using it. Walk through the mistakes you will inevitably make and learn from them. Find a community of people who are practicing vulnerability. Fill your heart full of the love that makes it come alive, full of grace, full of determination to walk with pain rather than around it, and you will be much better off than any heart that has been merely “guarded.”
I'm still figuring out what to make of all that.

Friday, March 29, 2013

20: expand my capacity to love

Four months ago I was struggling with a decision that enticed and scared me at the same time.

(No, it had nothing to do with a guy.)

I was dogsitting, trying to decide whether to take this little one home as my own.

It was a big decision, but what finally cinched the deal was the thought:

It is never a bad thing for our love to expand.
Thanksgiving evening I journaled, 
"Lord, Bella is in my lap and her mom wants to know if we're taking her home tomorrow to be ours. And I've been thinking maybe it is not Your will. But then she looks at me and I think when is it not God's will for us to love? And I think you are afraid of commitment/responsibility, aren't you? Lord, what is Your will? [. . .]

Lord, as I pet Bella, I think, Lord, expand my capacity to love. I like the twinkle of the feeling I have towards this dog. She's not even human."
That got me started thinking about love and my capacity for love. I'm still learning, but I'm going to blog about my thought processes on the subject thus far.
But for now I'll just say I did bring Bella home and now I call her my best gal. She is God's blessing to me and I love her very much!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

19: peer pressure

I just want to be above peer pressure, you know?

I want to be impervious to fads and trends.

Today I was listening to Chuck Colson and Nancy Pearcey's How Now Shall We Live in the car. They mentioned that, as Christians, we can influence society, even among the unconverted, by helping create or sustain moral virtues and taboos. But, they said, it is hard to create taboos in a culture with no moral compass.

I thought not being influenced was a virtue. What I heard in the car checked that value-system of mine. Societal taboos can be a good thing, especially if it's a general discouragement of homosexuality or abortion or divorce.

one of my 3 bookshelves

On Facebook, the friends I have tend to be book fanatics. You're obsessed with books? Awesome! One of my abnormally zealous friends just confessed that when she house-hunts she rules out places that do not have enough space for her books.

Despite my desire to be above such things, I have shamelessly, willingly fallen into the fad, the trend, the pressure of bibliophilia (though perhaps most of my friends would be better termed "bookworm," per definition). I have chosen to be among this nerdy group because 1) I personally enjoy it, and 2) I highly value literacy.

The result has been a ridiculous amount of 25 cent, 50 cent book buys from the local library. I also just finished a great book on Galileo called Galileo's Daughter, which you should read. :-P

So combined with what Colson and Pearcey said and my own experience, my new thought is that perhaps peer pressure is actually a good thing. Perhaps living in a pressure vacume is really a synonym for living in a valueless, morally relative, don't-judge-me-even-when-I'm-wrong society. We just need to choose carefully which pressure we'll succumb to.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

18: I need community!

Taking my own advice on the importance of how you view the church, I recently asked a match about his beliefs and found he considered the Lord to be his only necessary accountability. In replying (and ending the e-mailing), it was good for me to put my own thoughts into words, and what I wrote is especially true after just returning from my church community group! Here is my answer in part: 
I'll make this personal. I need community because my heart can grow cold, even though I know from 20+ years of walking with the Lord what is right. Hearing others' fervor stirs me up to get back on the path. I need community because I can't see everything in Scripture. Hearing what God is revealing to others enhances my own understanding of the Word. I need community because I need the support of my brothers' and sisters' prayers and the wisdom of those who have walked with Jesus (and in life) longer than me to speak into my life situations. Basically, I need community because I do not trust myself, and I am not capable of running my life with just me and God because God never intended for me to run my life with just me and Him. To Adam He gave Eve. To individual Hebrews He gave the whole set-apart nation of Israel, messy as they were. And to believers in Jesus, our Lord has given us, not only His Holy Spirit and the Scriptures, but fellow believers who, although they might not have the same convictions about entertainment or education or dress or even politics as us, have much to offer us and truly are fellow believers.
How can I trust someone to stay on the straight and narrow if they do not submit themselves to the advice and correction of anyone except themselves?
photo from my very enjoyable hike with friends
Not only do I desperately need community spiritually, but I'm realizing I desperately need to hang out in more groups to grow socially! After hiking with a favorite girl friend and her boyfriend on Saturday, I realized, despite having a wonderful time, that sometimes I annoy myself in how I interact with others! And I wondered if her albeit very kind boyfriend was secretly wondering how I thought I was going to get a guy being how I am! So, my conclusion is that I spend too much time by myself and need to get out more so I can be refined! Yay for refinement!

Isn't it funny how we think we know who we are until we actually take ourselves out in public?

Sunday, March 17, 2013

17: I have confidence?

I knew a lot more when I was a teenager. I had strong convictions, high standards for my future husband, and I knew what I wanted to do with my life.

Now I'm not sure, not sure, not sure.

I'm also finding that I can realize I'm wrong shortly after I was pretty sure I was right, which makes writing a blog somewhat precarious because you might cringe at what you said weeks or months later.

But even when I'm not being convicted that I was wrong, I tend to be wishy-washy and chameleon-like.

For example, the opposite of proper confidence is when you look back at your weekend and see yourself

talking about careers with a friend on Saturday
looking longingly at the three young marrieds dedicating their babies Sunday morning
laughing at a different friend's Rosie the Riveter inference at Sunday lunch
then being totally confused when Sunday evening two other friends refer positively to a quote about men being made to conquer the world and women are supposed to love their men for it and wondering, at this point, am I supposed to agree or disagree?
What group of people am I with again?
Is this the nod and agree or is this the look appropriately shocked group?

-cue chameleon music-
When I find myself nodding my head at two seemingly opposing statements in the same day I just have to wonder WHO AM I? Driven and tossed with every gust of wind perhaps?

Proper confidence is also not freaking out when someone questions the wisdom of a decision you've made after you've already agonized before coming to the decision.

A friend shared with me that, although she knows that God greatly uses counselors and that it's important to get counsel, she wants to start turning to God first in her decision-making.

There's lots of talk about being your own person and not letting people bring you down. Enough to make me ponder whether I should even try to improve my own confidence level.

But what my friend said reminded me that even though I do think it's important for me to grow in personal firmness so I'm not a chameleon, confidence can be empty, and often is empty, when it is not founded in seeking the Highest Authority, Counselor, and Future-Knower. Otherwise it's like having confidence in confidence alone (cue Sound of Music). What is that anyway? (It's a desperate personal peptalk until you convince yourself.)

I don't want a I-know-who-I-am-and-if-you-don't-like-it-don't-waste-my-time attitude.

But to be firm in who I am and where I stand because my confidence comes from the Rock, my Father, my Guide (versus sunshine, rain, and that spring will come again)? That works!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

16: a change in me - a simple sketch of Belle

I went to the Broadway version of Beauty and the Beast last week. I found surprising depth in its colorful, musical scenes.

"There must be more than this provincial life!"

Belle wants more. She's not happy with a life full of grocery shopping, managing kids, interacting with people who don't care about the latest book you got from the library.

Then the beast takes her father as prisoner, and Belle goes to the castle and exchanges her life for his. In her cold, dark room, torn from her father, never again to see their little cottage on the edge of town, she sings:

"Is this home? Is this where I should learn to be happy?"
"What I'd give to return to the life that I knew lately!"

Her life has been upended, and nothing is as it was. It's not the exciting life she had been dreaming of either.

"Is this home? Am I here for a day or forever?
Shut away from the world until who knows when?"

The play progresses, and of course, she luckily falls in love with the beast and vice-versa. But then she sees in the magic mirror that her father is in danger, so the beast lets her go to rescue him and take him home. Home again, she sings what is currently my favorite song in my playlist:

"There's been a change in me
A kind of moving on
Though what I used to be
I still depend upon

For now I realize
That good can come from bad
That may not make me wise
But, oh, it makes me glad!

And I--I never thought I'd leave behind
My childhood dreams
But I don't mind
For now I love the world I see
No change of heart
A change in me

For in my dark despair
I slowly understood
My perfect world out there
Had disappeared for good

But in its place I feel
A truer life begins
And it's so good and real
It must come from within

And I--I never thought I'd leave behind
My childhood dreams
But I don't mind
I'm where and who I want to be
No change of heart
A change in me"

She wanted so much more than her provincial life. Then, all that was good in her life was stripped away, and all she wanted was to go back to that provincial life. Discontent here, discontent there.

Then something changed in her.

She now loves the world she sees. She is where and who she wants to be. It's not that she's resigned, settled, or even had a change of mind. Her world was upended, and she has come back a different Belle. She . . . is satisfied.

She never thought she'd leave behind her childhood dreams, but somehow she doesn't mind. Although she still depends on who she used to be, her history, she now feels a truer life beginning within herself. She's moving on. In a good way.

No moral to the story for this post. Just surprising depth in this "tale as old as time, song as old as rhyme."

a safe distraction (v)

"To dread a possible end and thus never begin is safe." --me

15: encountering bitterness

It really was only a little offense. I had been in the way of a person and their anger. The frustration wasn't directed at me, but it was vented on me, and although I knew the person hadn't had any ill will towards me, I still felt hurt.

I knew it wasn't a big deal. They weren't even thinking about me when they did it. Like I said, I had just gotten in the way of their anger.

And yet every time I came near the person in the course of the day, I couldn't let it go. There was a silent wedge between us that I knew the other person was not aware of. I wanted to be strong and let it "roll off like water off a duck's back," like my mom used to say, but evening came and I knew when we were forced to interact I would still be holding an offense.

My ideal has long been to be a woman who can forgive and let go. I thought that that would be an amazing quality to have as a wife. To not take offense, to meekly receive wrong, and in divine strength, forgive and not take it to heart.

Why then does the Bible speak so often about going to your brother if he offends you?

But we've all witnessed how bringing up offenses to the offender can cause more chaos, strife, arguing, and more offense than you really want to invite by seeking reconciliation (or maybe, restitution).

If only I could forgive and forget, I wouldn't have to go to my brother!

The problem is today I could not forgive and forget. I could feel that seed of separation--bitterness?--digging into me.

So come evening I went to that person and told them I understood the innocence of the situation but I still felt hurt and I just wanted to get it talked out before it came up later, inopportunely.

You know what? The conversation went great. No escalating emotions, no more offenses. Just the awareness, acknowledgement, and reconciliation I needed.

I do want to grow in strength so that I accept offenses far less. But I think I need to reshape my ideal. Perhaps an ideal wife is not a woman who always lets offenses roll off her, but instead is a woman who knows how to stop, and consistently does stop, the root of bitterness. Whether that means silently, in God's strength, truly forgiving, or, with the same meekness, going to her offender for the purpose of reconciliation.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

14: trying to figure out love

I went to the Broadway Beauty and the Beast tonight. What would break the spell? Love.

A rude, self-absorbed prince had to learn how to love. And he had to learn how to love Belle before he could expect her to love him back.

How did true love play out?

Well, at first it was a nauseous feeling.

And it encompassed a lot of giggles.

Ultimately, love allowed the Beast to put Belle's needs before his own and to let her go help her father.

Love transformed him.

Ultimately, love made Belle defend the Beast in the face of mockery and rush back to the castle to rescue him. Love made her cling to him, even as he was dying, and tell him she loved him.

I have to admit, I don't yet understand love.

I understand romance.

I think I understand commitment.

But somewhere in between the two something mysterious, magical, divine takes place it seems. Where not only are you willing to make a commitment to a person, but you want to. Where the most rational person on earth can say, "I will love you forever" and mean it. (That doesn't make sense.)

So much shallow love surrounds us. But I'm starting to think that amid all the fake declarations of love, there must be a kernel of truth. And amid all the immoral outplayings of love, there must be some real, divine love spurring it on, albeit in an undivine manner.

I'm thinking that love, the kind a man has for a woman and vice-versa, although so natural and earthy and innate in how God created us, is mysterious, magical, and divine.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

FMF: Home

Five Minute Friday
Linking-up with the Five Minute Friday crowd!

Topic: "Home"

Home is the starting place of who I am.

Same room all my life.

Same bed since I was old enough to have a bed. (I'm only now starting to agree with my dad that maybe my feet do go over the edge too much.)

Same family. Same beliefs.

New dogs.

Inside these walls is where my mom discipled me all growing up. Where we became best friends.

Inside the walls of my room is where I wrestled with God years upon years it seems. Where I knelt beside my bed and, well, wrestled. And in the wrestling, strengthened our bond.

I'm strong enough in myself to leave these walls now.

But home is the bulb. The starting point. The essence.

I truly have a home. And I hope I never truly leave it behind.

an inspirational distraction (vi)

"It wasn’t until I laid all of my writerly-dreams on an altar and threw a match on them that I began to actually write. Once I was separated from outcome or expectations, I was free to finally, at last, write again. A relief! I wasn’t saving anything for anyone: there was no reason to hold back. I had nothing to prove or expect.

I used up all those carefully held-back stories in less than a year. (So much for those….)
And at the end of that year, I had more words, more ideas, more stories. The more I wrote, the more I had to write.

It took me three years of writing in obscurity, nearly every single day, all while steadily “using up” every half-decent turn of a phrase or idea, wasting my metaphors on imperfect mediums, to discover my voice. I have found God’s provision, his abundance, his promises for daily bread, to be true, even in art and creation.

Because not one of my terrible little stories or ideas were wasted, they nourished me, body, mind, and soul, and then, when they were gone, there was room for the new words to come. Pour out the old wine to make room for the new."
--Sarah Bessey, "In Which Art is Like Manna"

13: of honeymoon phases ending and the temptation to become bitter

Dreamt last night that a friend of mine was looking into getting a divorce. Her and her husband were both flirting with other people. When she began to tell me her story, in my dream, she started it with, "Our honeymoon phase ended 4 months ago." And my response, in my dream, was "It lasted that long?"

I've read a lot about marriage and listened to a lot of podcasts. I know that the first year of marriage can be inconceivably difficult. But it's only the first year. And if you work through things, your marriage will get better over time. So it's okay!

But when I woke up, I thought of someone else I know, in real life, who said the honeymoon ended while they were on their honeymoon. And then I remembered what I was thinking about right before I fell asleep: if on my honeymoon, my husband left the room for some reason and didn't come back for a couple hours (probably triggered from when I watched the Doris Day movie Move Over, Darling, which I wouldn't necessarily recommend by the way). That would be so hard emotionally to get over. Where was he? Did he forget about me? Why did he think it was okay to be gone while I was waiting for him? Was what he was doing really more important than spending time with me on our honeymoon?

Could I forgive and forget?

It's one thing to say the honeymoon phase will end sooner than you expect. It's another thing to barely have a couple days under your belt, if that, and the honeymoon phase dies.

Which reminds me of what I was journaling about the other day. I started my entry thinking about God and me and ended up thinking about the future....
"Faithfulness is not endurance with bitterness. Bitterness is an emotional separation. Pure faithfulness is commitment even, hm, in disappointment."
"Lord, when I am married, help me love him so much and trust You so much that I can always be faithful to my spouse without bitterness, even when he annoys, embarasses, and makes bad decisions."

I don't know if I can do that. Is it possible? How do you stop bitterness at the root? Would I be able to forgive my husband if he made a major blunder early on in our marriage? What about the first week? It's one thing to say, oh yes, he'll mess up. It's another to have just committed your life to someone and have them do something immediately that seems to be an ominous portent of things to come.

One of my "nightmares" is realizing right after the marriage ceremony that you married the wrong person.

Conclusion: 1) God save me from marrying in haste without having Your blessing. 2) God, teach me how to stave off bitterness before it takes root.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

12: summum bonum

A corner of my life is quickly getting consumed with "the guy hunt." I'm not even particularly anxious to be in a relationship at the moment; I'm just enjoying finding and filtering through options. It's embarassing to admit, but I am. And as I clarified to a friend the other day, I'm not a player, I'm just trying to be more practical and less emotionally involved than is my norm, per a friend's example and my mom's advice (or at least my interpretation of her advice!). Fortunately my friend laughed at the idea of me being a player. But for a girl who only talked about guys in code through all of her teens, talking about guys openly sometimes makes me feel obsessed.

So, yes, a corner of my life has been consumed, especially since I started this new blog. So it's time for a blessed reminder.

The Lord is my summum bonum.* The Lord is the greatest good, my greatest good.

Whatever you have your head down in, focused on, consumed by, every once in awhile peek up and remind yourself that God is the summum bonum of your life.

This season of my life will pass. Either I'll get worn out or I'll retreat in terror when a good guy is actually interested in me or I will get married and will enter a new season of my life.

I might get in a relationship and have it end in disaster.

I might get exasperated at not finding any good guys.

Basically, this is only a corner of my life, and if everything goes wrong, or if everything goes well, God is still God and it's all about knowing Him and following Him.

That's stability right there.

And that's what I sometimes have to pause my exhilirating carousel ride to remember. My existence is about Him.

*I thought Wikipedia did a nice job explaining this phrase: "Summum bonum is a Latin expression meaning "the highest good" and is used in philosophy, particularly in medieval philosophy and in Kantianism, to describe the ultimate importance, the singular and most ultimate end which human beings ought to pursue. The summum bonum is generally thought of as being an end in itself, and at the same time containing all other goods."

Monday, March 4, 2013

11: what you say says a lot about you

If you want to study humankind, make a profile on a dating website. You will not cease to be amazed.

For example, there is a "type" I have discovered: the old man hitting on the young girl who thinks his ultra-conservatism makes him eligible.

I have blogged elsewhere about the 60 something year old who was divorced and looking for a young Christian woman who wanted to have children. He also was anti-church. (And he e-mailed me.)

Now I have been added as a favorite by a 40 something year old who is looking for a helpmeet.

distraction: What 10 years ago would have attracted me to a man is now repellent to me. I think a lot of conservative, homeschooled girls feel this way. It's not that we don't agree with what the man is saying, but the fact that the man feels he has to say it generally infers a whole lot of garbage beneath the white-washed surface. What you choose to include in a profile says a lot about you.

Or rather, he wants a woman whose "determination and purpose in life is to be a HELPER to her husband as described and detailed in Proverbs 31." What would he like to do on a first date? "Whatever is acceptable to her father and edifying to his daughter." And, as could be expected, he does not like the word "date," but prefers "courtship."

Ok, so any homeschooled reader can immediately tell what camp he is in. He's in the patriarchal camp. And even me, a Dr. Who-loving, jeans-wearing, out-of-home working, degree-holding woman does not deride his position. I want to be a helpmeet to my husband. My parents have always been and will continue to be thoroughly involved in my relationships. And when I had a boyfriend, I totally felt uncomfortable saying the word "boyfriend." But the fact that this man felt he had to say these things, and the fact that he's, well, old, tells me he is following an extreme I do not adhere to. He's also divorced, which makes me wonder if he has a double standard for himself.

But the real clincher, if age didn't do it, is what being a Christian means to him:

"To first and foremost seek God and thus flee from false teachers and prophets, and their followers, the swine and the dogs that return to their mire and to eat of their own vomit, as described in 2 Peter 2."

And this is where we pull out all the stops.
Where the bets are called in.
Where the rubber meets the road.
Ie. major RED FLAG time.

Any man or woman, regardless of age and personal convictions, who defines his or her faith by their antagonism to Christ's bride has an extremely distorted perspective.

No matter what age the guy is or how cute he is or how similar you guys seem to be, if he is anti-church, my advice is to RUN. (Why? Because he thinks he's an authority unto himself. Besides many other reasons.)

Saturday, March 2, 2013

10: confidence

I'm going to a dinner/game night with people my age tonight. The group consists of a good majority of homeschoolers, so I decided to don a skirt (since the last couple times I've hung out with them I've worn jeans). Since it's a casual Saturday, until I leave, I decided to keep my pajama t-shirt on--a new red-neck kind of t-shirt, girly camoflauge. So I have a long maroon t-shirt over a long teal skirt, my hair is down, unbrushed but long and nicely wavy. And I'm like, "I look so much like a homeschooler right now." (Did I mention I AM a homeschooler? Or, was. But once a homeschooler, always a homeschooler, imo.) So I get on FB and write "Homeschool rocks!" Because I'm just feeling the homeschool pride today. :)

And then the dog starts barking out front and I go to bring her inside and I see a teenage girl, the daughter of one of the ladies at church, walking by. I've driven her around a few times when she's needed a ride. I go out to see her. She's dressed in a low-cut tanktop, totally soaking in the early hot sunshine of this deceptively summery March day, walking a friend's baby. And suddenly, I feel self-conscious.Because, oh yes, I look completely homeschoolerish when I could have been looking cool like her (minus the low-cut).

"Well, I'll let you go on with your walk. I'm making applesauce."

That and the kitchen towel in my hand clenched the look of domesticity. Maybe the applesauce comment made me look better because it made me look like I was maximizing this sunny day even though I was inside?

Ah, the beauty of insecurity. :)

I walked back into the kitchen and started thinking, "And you just wrote that homeschool rocks. And this is not confidence. Confidence would have been being completely comfortable in who you are in front of someone who is not the same as you." And I thought, "That's who you want to be, isn't it? You want to be a person who can be the homeschool-type, or the Mennonite type (which I'm not), and be able to talk with all other "types." (I've been inspired by Mennonite books and older women who are able to minister to others without being either judgemental or self-conscious.) You are you, and that's ok."

So what is confidence? It's being secure in who you are today (whether today I'm rocking the homeschool look or the skinny jean look or the hippie look) no matter who you run into. It's being secure in being you, unless of course you want to change who you are, which is fine, but confidence is not wanting to change who you are every time you run across someone who does not mirror yourself.

Ok, back to making applesauce.