Friday, January 23, 2015

136: a variety of thoughts

something I'm working on
I am really quite exhausted. And I of all people shouldn't write when I am exhausted because I'm liable to say anything.

Might I be allowed on my own blog just to share random thoughts?

Love your neighbor as yourself as applied to teaching. I've tried so hard to be a teacher and an authority and to teach these kids how to act. But I don't like the mirrored reflection now of how I've treated them. So maybe I can strive for a little less hardnose and a little more politeness.

Bearing the fruit of the Spirit, like patience, kindness, goodness. Yes, I am "spending time" with the Lord but I'm not spending TIME with Him, so if I do want those fruits to flow out of me, I need to fill myself up with time with Him more.

I went on MarryWell (another online relationship site of sorts) last night. Looking at the profiles, seeing guys trying to present themselves accurately and desirably just as I tried hard to do, it made me feel yucky. I thought maybe I could go back, especially since I would really like a male friend right now, but I can't. For me, it's so unnatural that I now associate it to something bad, as if I had a negative experience in the past that I'm relating it to. I didn't have a negative experience that should taint how I emotionally react to online dating sites. But I guess that door is now closed to me. I don't know why. I don't mind, because I really would like to meet someone naturally and fall in love naturally (not that that doesn't happen through a tool like dating sites), but it does rather limit one's selection, and depending on how limited one's selection is....

I've been bravely, hesitantly embracing prolonged singleness. *chuckle* Not like it isn't already upon me. *wry smile* But accepting it is very very new to me. There's something else that's really odd. The paradoxical possibility of embracing prolonged singleness and still praying every day in my journal, per my New Year's resolution, asking God for a husband. How can someone move forward and still hold on to a dream of the past? I don't know. How do people act like one thing is reality while still deep in their childlike soul believe/hope/fairytale-dream that something else will occur? (I read a great article that touched on this for me--see the link on the lower right called "Meaning in the Meanwhile".)

make a blurry picture better by over-fixing it?
Speaking of childhood dreams, I used to want, like, 12 kids. I was raised almost as an only child (my sister is 16 years older than me). But I hung out with big families--5 or 7 kids--and that's what I wanted. Now with teaching school? I have a great and enjoyable group of kids. But I enjoy coming home. I can't imagine having the responsibility to parent and homeschool several children much less 12. It's enough to make one want to cry. This week I've been overwhelmed just by the responsibility of teaching academics to 5 children for a couple years. And I think being a full-time parent and homeschool mom would be less stressful? I still want to get married, have children, and homeschool. But, yowzers. (I would need a good man to thrive and not just survive.)

I would share about the book I'm reading--a history book about women during World War 2--or I would share how I'm reading another book for a book review about a pastor and his struggle with reconciling God and suffering--but the only reason why I would would be to show you my life consists of something other than teaching and thinking of singleness, which is a lame reason to keep writing when emotionally one feels done.

So goodnight!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

135: relationships

On an impulse the other week I deleted my profiles on Christian Mingle and eHarmony. I haven't regretted it. But lately I've found myself wanting to type in the link...and I have...only to find I have no username to type in anymore, no profile to log into.

It amazes me how my world has expanded because of guys I've met online, even if we never went on a date.

Through one guy I was introduced to a dear friend and a huge group of people who I now know better than I do him. Another guy went on to join long-time friends of my family's in ministry--people he didn't even know when we were corresponding. He is now in love with a girl he met through that ministry. Another fellow who I actually did go on a date with is pursuing a girl from out of state and they seem smitten. Seeing photos of them on Facebook makes me happy because he deserved a good match.

I think back to Stephan, a guy I became friends with though we never met. We knew we were just friends from the beginning, not more, despite meeting on Christian Mingle. We enjoyed talking til our subscriptions expired. No romance spoils my memories of our several month cyber friendship. It was good to just have a friend.

Another fellow let me correspond for 3 months before saying we didn't have enough in common (even though we hadn't even met), but because of him I started watching Doctor Who. Is that a good or a bad thing? XD

When I think of Tony--a fellow several years older than me from the to-me romantic state of Wyoming, I feel warm inside. I know, I know, that sounds weird. Even though I had to tell him no way (he was pretty extreme in his beliefs and shunned accountability), he didn't get nasty like some people might when someone strongly disagrees with them. Instead he told me what a wonderful, intelligent woman I was even though it wasn't going to work. How can I not have fond recollections of that brief acquaintance?

It is never a bad thing to love more, whether it be a dog or a friend or something longer lasting. It is never a bad thing to let people into your life, however briefly. It is never a bad thing to get to know your neighbors, near or far.

Online dating did that for me. I'm probably not going back, but I leave it a fuller person.

one of those hilarious things you see on FB

Saturday, January 17, 2015

134: a week in the life of (illustrated edition)

From Friday night to Friday night, hailing back to those days when I used to journal about life instead of solely my mental ramblings.

Friday night (1/9): I stayed at work til almost 8pm helping the kinder/1st teacher (who is also a dear friend) put together our "Discovering Worms" tri-folds for Monday's science fair.

I came home exhausted to a very happy dog who proceeded to go out to my dad's office and contentedly chew on the rack of antlers he brought home for her from one of his hunting trips a few months ago. Then I made lunch for the next day: two Trader Joe's flatbread rounds filled with smooshed avocado, vinegar, salt and pepper, feta cheese, peels of carrot, cabbage, cilantro, browned pine nuts, and sauteed onions. Cuz that's what was in our refrigerator.

Saturday: I went on a Homeschool Alumni hike with three other people. The switchback trail was closed so we went up, up, up to the summit and, amazingly, didn't die from not being able to breathe because of the steep walking. At the top I sat down and gazed at this:

And thought solitary thoughts like:
This will always be here. I can always come back and see this beauty.

Even though I was with a girl friend on the drive home, I definitely had the single blues about going home after a socially fun day to . . . nothing. But, my mom had made a delicious meal of salad and lentil burgers and then she watched a Doctor Who episode with me and listened to me cry and talk out my blues like I haven't done with her in awhile. It was really nice. Proper mom-talks are nice.

Sunday: I went to church and sat in my darkened corner of the 3rd pew on the right like I have for the last four years (2nd/3rd/4th pew, depending). But lest you feel bad for me, I sit by myself so that I don't have to scramble every Sunday for someone to sit with, which would be far, far worse than having my own little corner where I belong. This Sunday I realized that the couple who sits in front of me probably didn't know I was there last week since I had sat with my community group leaders on the left hand side in the middle last week for a change.

I was craving pizza and had brought my '50s espionage novel with me, so after service I went to Round Table, sat in a comfy booth, spread out my novel and my phone with incoming texts and FB messages from two blessings of friends, and enjoyed the buffet. I was afraid it might be miserable and lonely, but I chose to do it, to brave it, and actually, it was quite enjoyable. Just how I wanted it to be! Relaxing. Thank You, Lord.

In the afternoon I walked two miles with my hiking friend because both of our muscles desperately needed stretching. Desperately.

I also had another talk with my mom. I asked her "Am I still sweet?" and although she didn't answer "yes, of course," her answer was real and very encouraging.

And I exchanged lots of texts with my crazy novel-writing friend.

Monday: Another day back at school where I was dragging and felt completely unmotivated (still recovering from Christmas break). But our science fair boards looked great!

Tuesday: I felt myself hunkering down emotionally. In a good way--a re-energizing way. I went out to frozen yogurt with a friend and then took a needed late evening trip to Target. I had told the kids I would get them M&Ms. $20+ later and my friend and I weren't even out of the dollar section! It was great! I rarely go out at night these days but this was a treat.
I may have gone a little overboard
Wednesday: Second day of spirit week at school. Theme: Animal Day. I dressed up as a cat--and I don't even like cats!--which meant I got to wear pajamas all day. Yes! :-P

For dinner my parents and I went out to Thai food--my mom's favorite--to celebrate her birthday a few days early.

Thursday: We finished a semester of history (sans the last test and learning about MLK Jr Day, which was saved for the next day). We finished the Civil War! The kids also wrote book reports on Who Was Harriet Tubman? which I had spent the last couple weeks reading to them. Do you know how aggravating it is when kids don't listen to your instructions and either just copy off the board all the fragments you had written as possible topic sentences and say, "I'm done!" or have absolutely no idea what they're supposed to do because they weren't mentally present when you explained it in detail, more than once? Yeah...

But we did do this cool mini-craft to end our unit. The North and the South as a broken heart, now healing:

And then the other two elementary teachers and I stuck around and had a planning meeting about our elementary show in May. Last year we did a Seussical Sensational Show. . .which turned out rather sensational! This year we're trying to do a silver screen/b/w stage theater something theme.

Friday: End of the semester tests and assessments. Chapel. Every other week Spanish class as taught by the highschool Spanish class. Last spirit week rally. Learning about MLK Jr. It was one full school day before a three day weekend! One of my favorite parts was lining up my Ethiopian student, blonde haired/blue eyed student, and Chinese student for a photo with their "I Have a Dream"/Martin Luther King Jr. pictures. "I have a dream that... little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers." Definitely true in my class.

Then I got to have dinner with a teacher friend and we went to my school's homecoming game! It was SUCH a pleasant, energizing, fun way to start the weekend.

good reminder

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Book Review: Esther by Angela Hunt

"You think your life will amount to so little?"

I sighed, not understanding why he couldn't see the obvious. What other fate could possibly await a girl like me?

"Never usurp the right of the Almighty to plan your future," he said, his dark eyes intent on my face. "HaShem is always at work, even when you can't see Him."
--Esther by Angela Hunt

I picked Esther to review because I had watched "One Night with the King" and gone to Purim parties and was curious what author Angela Hunt would do to a story that has been done so many times.

First off, the bad thing about reading a story based on a story you already know is that you are waiting for the BIG EVENT to happen. It felt like it took a really long time to set the backdrop for the main drama of Esther being chosen queen.

But after I pushed through all the foundation laying (which was interesting, I'll grant you) the book became a delightful page-turner. Some things she brought out were completely new to me, like what eunuchs looked like, how Vashti may have been involved in Esther's life, and the idea that Esther could have struggled with valuing Persian culture over Jewish culture because she lived in the shadow of the palace. I felt like I got to read a more accurate, less romanticized version of Esther, but it wasn't boring at all, just more realistic.

The ending was a little bit of a disappointment. I had hoped for more details about the rest of Esther and the king's life together after Purim. I would have liked more information about Mordecai's life as second-to-the-king too. But, the book wrapped up quickly. And it had a nice ending.

All in all, I would definitely recommend this book.

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

Thursday, January 8, 2015

133: the other end of life

giving out Christmas bags at the El Buen Samaritano
seniors home in Vicente Guerrero, Baja Mexico
I went to a funeral the other day. A graveside service, very small.

An older lady sat in front of me. Her gray hair was piled up and patted down into a style I could not replicate. She sat alone. A friend of the deceased.

She would mourn and then go home. Perhaps to a quiet house, by herself, but hopefully to a home full of good memories.

For the first time it really came to me what it must be like for an older person to see each of his or her friends die in their turn, to feel the end of one's life hurdling toward you, and to worry, unwillingly, whether you'll be next.

I honestly don't know what elderly people think or feel. I sit here, not even out of my 20s, feeling like I'm rushing toward "old age" simply because I turn 30 in eight months and haven't started a family. Not that I minimize my own sense of life rushing past. 21 year olds feel the same way, I think.

a happy lady whose Spanish I could
understand until my vocabulary failed me
I guess what I'm saying is, what they are experiencing cannot be minimized either. Just because an elderly person has lived a full life does not mean he/she doesn't, possibly, experience the same loneliness and despair I feel at the beginning of my life. I stand at the front end of an unknown future; they sit at the end not knowing how many years are left in their future. They look around them at their friends and wonder if in the next year they will fall and break a bone, contract pneumonia, get dementia, end up in the hospital, be put in a convalescent home, be forced by their kids to move away from their life and friends, be all but forgotten by their loved ones, die.

I fear the future, but I pretty much know I will still have some kind of full life per God's design. What must it be like to be at the end of a full life and fear that it will end, after all, in loneliness, illness, or lack of independence?

Every season has its struggles. Singles aren't alone in that.

my grandma and I
I hope to one day mature spiritually enough to be a gray-haired 80+ year old resting joyfully in full confidence in my Lord. Wouldn't that be wonderful?

If some of these trying single years of wrestling with God's sovereignty are going to help produce that, it will definitely be worth it.

"The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree,
He shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
Those who are planted in the house of the LORD
Shall flourish in the courts of our God.
They shall still bear fruit in old age;
They shall be fresh and flourishing,
To declare that the LORD is upright;
He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him."
Psalm 82:12-15

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

132: everything else is optional

How did I miss all these years that life's not fair?

When you get what you want for so long, you kinda gloss over other people's lives. Well, God will get them through it. He has a plan.

By the rivers of Babylon, There we sat down, yea, we wept, When we remembered Zion.

I think about the Jews exiled in Babylon--righteous men and women longing so hard for their homeland where they belonged by God's design, but where they could not live because of national sin. (I recently read a novel about Esther--book review forthcoming!)

I think of the believers in Africa and the Middle East who can't even live in peace because of the constant threat of attack from Yahweh-hating Muslims. I take for granted that a basic right of my life is to be able to live it freely, without fear of other people.

I have assumptions--things I take for granted should naturally come with life. Like liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Like marriage, children, a home of one's own.* When those assumptions are contradicted, however minutely, in my own life, I find myself up at after 11 pm on a school night, sobbing into my pillow, telling/asking/reminding God over and over that It's Not Fair.

We all know our life's purpose is to glorify God. Knowing it and feeling it are two different things. I assume that I will get to glorify God AND have xyz for my personal pleasure. But like Job, life can turn an absolute mess (which it hasn't for me) and every desire be denied (which it hasn't for me) and every dream be cut off (er, getting a little close to home there), and, strangely, our lives can still have purpose.

I can see the amazing witness for Christ believers can have who are running from town to town for survival, their families being slaughtered. I think, "That is horrible," but I don't feel the unfairness personally.

It's harder then to look at my own life and see this little thing go wrong and that dream denied and be willing to say, "Lord, as long as I glorify You..." Because that would mean giving up my assumptions about fairness and what life should look like--in reality, not theoretically--so I can accept the higher purpose of God.

I'm more like the child whose parents are trying to gently take away his toy. I don't want to let go. I was given this, it's mine, why on earth do you think you can take this away? Nothing is better than this. I don't want anything else. No, I don't trust You.

Oh God, have mercy on this foolish, emotion-blinded soul.

What would it be like to have the faith and love to say, "Lord, everything else is optional, as long as I glorify You"?

*These posts lately are not so much about singleness but just wrestling with how to have an active faith in God that will apply to all the variations of life.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

131: believing/faith/hope

I'm working through the topic of believing/faith/hope right now. Isn't it funny how a friend can say something, and you read something in a novel, and another person says something or you hear a song, and all of a sudden God has directed your thoughts toward one thing which you are now grappling with? Well, that's what happened.

I'm not going to write a whole blogpost on it because I haven't even gathered my thoughts enough to write about them (and sometimes I write to see what my thoughts are, and I'm not even that far yet!). But I do want to share one quote. It's from a novel I read over the turning of the new year. I bought it  when my mom and I went antique storing the day before Christmas Eve. It's by Frances Hodgson Burnett (Secret Garden, right?), and it's called The Dawn of A To-morrow. It's about a man on the verge of committing suicide (pleasant topic for a novel, right?) and about the little beggar girl he meets and others who change his way of thinking.

One of the characters, Miss Montaubyn, has had her life transformed by . . .  the Lord? Quaker sentiment? Child-like faith? The book seemed more Quaker-like than Biblical, but it made me think. And here is what Miss Montaubyn says, quoting the lady that told her about God,

"'"[W]e've all been thinkin' we've been believin', an' none of us 'as. If we 'ad what 'd there be to be afraid of? If we believed a king was givin' us our livin' an' takin' care of us who 'd be afraid of not 'avin' enough to eat?"'"

Really, it's not a new thought, but I've become so realistic in my thinking, I wonder if I need to go back to having some unrealistic faith.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

130: waiting (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

my love bug
ChristianAudio's free audiobook of the month for December was God is in the Manger by Dietrich
Bonhoeffer. So I downloaded it but didn't really do anything with it. Until the last few days.


So I bring you a quote from Week One, Day Two. For more information about Dietrich Bonhoeffer, I recommend Focus on the Family Radio Theatre's dramatization of his life. And, fyi, this month's free audiobook at is C.H. Spurgeon's Morning and Evening devotional.

Now to the quote!

"Celebrating Advent means being able to wait. Waiting is an art that our impatient age has forgotten. It wants to break open the ripe fruit when it has hardly finished planting the shoot. But all too often the greedy eyes are only deceived. The fruit that seemed so precious is still green on the inside, and the disrespectful hands ungratefully toss aside what has so disappointed them.

Whoever does not know the austere blessedness of waiting, that is, of hopefully doing without, will never experience the full blessing of fulfillment. Those who do not know how it feels to struggle anxiously with the deepest questions of life, of their life, and to patiently look forward with anticipation until the truth is revealed, cannot even dream of the splendor of the moment in which clarity is illuminated for them; and for those who do not want to win the friendship and love of another person, who do not expectantly open up their soul to the soul of the other person, until friendship and love come, until they make their entrance, for such people the deepest blessing of the one life of two intertwined souls will remain forever hidden. For the greatest, most profound, tenderest things in the world, we must wait. . . .

'. . . . We shall both experience a few dark hours. Why should we disguise that from each other? We shall ponder the incomprehensibility of our lot, and be assailed by the questions of "why?" over and above the darkness already enshrouding humanity, we should be subjected to the bitter anguish of a separation whose purpose we fail to understand; and then, just when everything is bearing down on us to such an extent that we can scarcely withstand it, the Christmas message comes to tell us that all our ideas are wrong, and that what we take to be evil and dark is really good and light because it comes from God. Our eyes are at fault. That is all. God is in the manger. . . . No evil can befall us. Whatever men may do to us, they cannot but serve the God who is secretly revealed as love and rules the world and our lives.' Letter to fiance Maria . . . from prison, December 13, 1943."

--Dietrich Bonhoeffer, God is in the Manger

last sunset of 2014, Mexico