Dec 2, 2012 - My Story    No Comments

The Pothole Gospel

As a woman, it is one of the things I hate most.  Car repairs. I hate not knowing the inner workings of my old Corolla friend. I hate feeling taken advantage of because of my ignorance. But mostly, I hate being stranded when things unexpected go wrong. This is where our story picks up.
I was on my way to the third house of the a progressive dinner at church when a pothole suddenly lunged from the median, swallowing my front driver’s side tire.
I hit it hard and I hit it square.

I turned off the radio to hear for clues as to just how much damage had been caused by the insidious, lurking pothole. It didn’t sound normal. I found a place to safely pull to the side of the road and got out to see if my eyes to ascertain the level of damage better than my ears. My hub cap was badly scraped, as was my tire. I did what all women do in such a situation – I kicked the tire. I’m not quite sure where we get this from, but it is somehow instinctive.  The tire seemed to be holding air – even with repeated kicks (at least as forceful as I could muster in dress shoes). So I continued to the final house of the night to get an expert opinion.
After arriving, eating desserts, and playing a few games, the evening was drawing to a close. I asked one of the guys to follow me out to my car and assess the damage from a male perspective (which would probably utilize something much more useful than a kick). I pride myself on being very independent. In some sense that is both the blessing and the plight of a single woman. I have a job, pay my own bills, and am responsible for myself. But it also means that I dislike asking for help. A good friend of mine often reminds me that a knight can’t show his bravery when the damsel won’t admit her distress! So I thought it was a big step for me to even ask for help.

The gentleman agreed to be “knightly” and check on the state of my car, but as we arrived at my car, it didn’t take an expert eye to recognize a completely flat tire. Drat! But before I even had time to bemoan my pothole predicament, this man had called two more guys out to begin the task of replacing the flat tire with my spare. All I did in the entire exchange was pop my trunk for them. Tires, jacks, wrenches, flashlights, bolts, and air pressure gauges flew out of secret hiding places I did not even know my car had! As I stood, admiring the skill and helpfulness of these men who were assisting me out of a bind, I felt loved and taken care of – something I often miss as I am so focused on being independent and forging my own way. There was something deeply feminine about needing assistance and something strongly masculine about the help being offered freely. I could have kicked off my heels, cranked the jack, and helped loosen lug nuts, but I didn’t have to. And I really appreciated that. It was beautiful to me to see my brothers in the body of Christ go out of their way to assist me.


After a short period of time the flat tire was resting in my trunk (it’d had a hard night and was tired) and the sad looking spare was on in its place. Then we realized that my spare tire was also low on air. I suppose that is to be expected after riding around in a secret compartment for ten years in the heat of Florida, but it was disappointing nonetheless. So instead of sending me on my way ten pounds of pressure short, two gentlemen offered to follow me to a nearby gas station, and then proceeded to fill up my spare to its appropriate pressure and follow me home — at 40 miles per hour – to make sure I made it home okay. I didn’t deserve their kindnesses. Not only did they perform all steps of the needed transaction to get me safely home, but they did not make me feel guilty or inferior for even helpless for needing help. They were gracious and all I could do was accept. I didn’t have the knowledge or strength to do the job on my own, I only had to receive what they freely offered. And that worked out better because I was able to learn to receive help and these men were able to fix the situation and feel a sense of accomplishment in their work. How much better when we rely on each other instead of flying solo!

And that got me thinking about how the guys who helped me gave me an object lesson from God.  Like the “knightly” men did, God freely offers grace. He is strong and loving and cares for his family. He desires to help and see his work carried through to completion. He takes care of those who need help. He loves deeply, understands our weaknesses, and desires us to be dependent upon him, not independent to a fault. He offers grace, our job is to accept it.

My weekend was full of provision in the most unexpected of ways and I am so thankful to all to stepped up and not only dealt with the details of flat tires, but also gave me a beautiful and powerful picture of God’s masculine care for his beloved. The more I thought about the situation, the more I realized that it was the gospel in miniature. That is why I entitled this post: “The Pothole Gospel.” So perhaps I shouldn’t hate car repairs so much after all. They might just be an opportunity to see the gospel in unexpected, every day situations.

Preposterious

Preposterous + Mysterious = Preposterious.

I’ve coined a new word to describe my day.

Even though it’s a Saturday, I had to work. Welcome to my world. I work EVERY Saturday. I’m an Occupational Therapist and I’ve learned that strokes just don’t seem to wait just because it is the weekend. So I worked.

I really enjoy my job. I get to meet people and help them when they’re scared and need comfort. I get to help people be independent and care for themselves again after a catastrophic change. I get to MacGyver things to make it work.

I enjoy my job… but today it was preposterous.

I had a string of interactions which involved people yelling at me for trying to help them. I was cursed at, pushed away, grabbed, pulled, and shoved. I tried to help one gentleman correct his posture while walking so he could look where he was going instead of at his own navel. He told me to mind my own business. And snorted.

I assisted another woman to the restroom to do her business and get cleaned up a little. She “thanked” me by telling me I was ugly and my mother too. No joke. Gee, thanks.

It was preposterous how people were reacting to good meaning offers of assistance and healing. It was mysterious why!

Why were people responding to harshly? Why were my pointers intended to help these people go home and live safely and independently being snubbed? Why were people so difficult?

And then the light when on.

I am just as difficult. I hate accepting help. I want to be the strong one. I want to do it all – by myself. I tantrum like a toddler. Sometimes I fight, push, snub, fuss, fret, and get angry with God. I want to control my own life and story and direction. And that’s not how it works. I think my ways are better. I don’t always see that I’m walking with poor posture. Or about to trip over something. I don’t want help – I think I can do it all. Suddenly the mystery was solved. But the preposterous-ness still remained.

Nov 30, 2012 - Book Review    No Comments

No Angel

I should’ve seen it coming. It IS in the title after all!

No Angel, by Penny Vincenzi is a historical, family drama set in and around World War I. Celia Lytton, the protagonist is a gifted book editor and publishing guru along with her husband, Oliver. This novel follows Celia and her near, extended, and adopted family members through a few decades of drama. I very much enjoyed how this story interacted with historical events. For instance, the family is set to take a trip on the Titanic before one of the children becomes ill delaying the trip and saving numerous lives in the process!

I am a fairly fast reader and I tend to skip some details. I’ve been known to read and think in my head, “That person’s name is the long one that starts with A.” Reading like that doesn’t cut it in this book because there are oodles of characters – family members, friends, significant others, authors! I had to flip back pages a few times to catch myself up on some plot lines. If you can keep names and relationships straight, read on! If you get confused during Green Eggs and Ham, perhaps not!

The title is telling. Celia is no angel. She struggles in life. She wants more, is enraged how WWI affected her life and family, wants to succeed at work, wants to care for her children, and she wants to feel loved. She makes some blunders – both personally and professionally. And she has to live with those consequences. I appreciate Vincenzi’s writing ability here. She can both help me to identify with the desires with drown Celia, but she doesn’t live or write in a rose-colored world where love always wins and no one gets hurt. Celia is no angel, but somehow you cheer for her anyway.

Nov 28, 2012 - Book Review    No Comments

Book Review — Still: Thoughts on a Mid-Faith Crisis by Lauren F. Winner

Middle-age. Middle management. Mid-life crisis. Middle child. Middle school.

Middle doesn’t have that good a reputation.

Beginnings and endings get all the glory, excitement and recognition. But the middle is often overlooked. Which is disheartening because it is where most of the work is done. Middle is about perseverance. About fortitude. About forging steadily onward no matter the obstacles in your path.


Author Lauren Winner discusses the trials of middle in her book, Still, Thoughts on a Mid-Faith Crisis. This book, a collection of disjointed essays portrays the feeling of middle. The stagnant, stillness of the mundane, the everyday. The feeling of dragging through life. She relates her experiences of middle to her marriage. But she doesn’t pull punches or wear rose colored glasses. Winner does not try to portray herself as perfect. In fact, she is far more focused on her own sin than anyone else’s. She is open about her sin and shortcomings, even when it’s painful. She talks about how her marriage started – and how it ended. She discusses the weight of her unhappiness and the wrestling with theology – in which Jesus is clear about his thoughts about divorce. She writes about how she felt through it all.

Winner is a poet. She can see lessons in everything in life from coffee with a friend, to visiting Emily Dickenson’s house. There is no plot in his reflective novel and Winner is clear that it is not a memoir because of its lack of narrative. But through her essays, you are journeying with Winner through her middle. Through her crisis of faith. Through her desire to have hope and worship again.

In that way, it is haunting as I can see myself having similar stages in my Christian journey. I am knowledgeable. I have a Master’s degree in theology. I’ve been at this Christian thing for some time. Am I getting bored? Is that the reason for the spiritual funk in which I find myself?

Winner doesn’t give her readers a conclusion. She wants them to wrestle with their middles.

I’m wrestling with mine. I’m in the middle.

Nov 27, 2012 - Devotional    No Comments

Staying Carbonated

“My marriage just went flat… like a soda.”

A good friend of mine who was going through a divorce poured out his heart to me over sushi and sake several years ago. He told me how his life had changed since his wife left. How all the details from new checking accounts to new addresses had to be ironed out. Then he said something that has always stuck with me, “My marriage just went flat… like a soda.” One day he woke up and there was no more sparkle, pizazz or fizz.

So how do we stay carbonated?

How to we avoid such a fate in marriages and other long-term relationships? How do we not set patterns in relating to one another that slowly loosen the cap of our sodas letting out all the carbonation? I think this can be a common tale. We get busy and make time for everything, but each other. We’ve seen the relationships that seem more like co-habitation than marriage.

Honestly, that terrifies me. Even though I am not married and no where near being married, I am frightened that I could lose my carbonation. I am determined to have good relationships. I want to find ways to be pumping carbon dioxide back into my relational soda! Because, let’s be honest, life is hard. The cares and worries of life choke out our spontaneity our sense of wonder, our excitement with the everyday. Life consistently drains the carbonation from our relationships and our lives.  We must fight to keep the bubbles.

I don’t know exactly how to stay carbonated, but I know it should be my goal.

How about you – how carbonated do you feel right now?

 

Image from: http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-TlXK6EcyXdc/UBGkkTQERBI/AAAAAAAAPTw/Nk4auuz8pB4/s1600/soda_can.jpg

Nov 26, 2012 - Quotes    No Comments

Quote-tastic!

Like I’ve said before, I live my life in movie quotes. There’s nary a day goes by that I am not reminded of a situation and –even more importantly– a beautifully crafted line from one of my favorite flicks. I love the craft of writing and have been known to watch a particularly poignant scene over and over again until I get the transcription perfect! Here’s another salivating movie quote to get you in the Christmas mood! (Thankfully, transcription is courtesy of imdb.com!) But comments are all mine!

Arthur Abbott: [Octogenarian and former screenwriter] You know what I’ve been asking myself all night?
Iris: [Young, single Brit transported to L.A. for Christmas and healing from unrequited love!] What? Why I’m bothering you with all these questions?
Arthur Abbott: I’m wondering why a beautiful girl like you would go to a strangers’ house for their Christmas Vacation, and on top of that spend Saturday night with an old cock-up like me.
Iris: Well, I just wanted to get away from all the people I see all the time!… Well, not all the people… one person. I wanted to get away from one… guy.
[she sobs]
Iris: An ex-boyfriend who just got engaged and forgot to tell me.
Arthur Abbott: So, he’s a schmuck.
Iris: As a matter of fact, he is… a huge schmuck. How did you know?
Arthur Abbott: He let you go. This is not a hard one to figure out. Iris, in the movies we have leading ladies and we have the best friend. You, I can tell, are a leading lady, but for some reason you are behaving like the best friend.
Iris: You’re so right. You’re supposed to be the leading lady of your own life, for god’s sake! Arthur, I’ve been going to a therapist for three years, and she’s never explained anything to me that well. That was brilliant. Brutal, but brilliant.

Am I the leading lady of my own life? Do I direct my own paths? How about you?

Nov 25, 2012 - My Story    2 Comments

The Soundtrack of my Life

I wish my life had a soundtrack.

It’s how you know something big is coming in a movie – the sappy, lovey-dovey music plays just before the first kiss. The tension slowly builds as the protagonist steels his nerves for battle – raising into a crescendo when the battle is won! I, on the other hand, was completely caught off guard during my first kiss! I wasn’t expecting it and there was no music as warning.

I wish my life had a soundtrack.

I wish the song from Chariots of Fire payed each time I was at the gym cheering me melodically on to run one more minute or lift ten more pounds. I wish that soft and somber music played when I was feeling lonely or sad. Music that allowed me to sit quietly and let the emotion swallow me for a time instead of pressing onward and avoiding whatever is bothering me. I want music to remind me of good times, important memories, difficult trials, successes, missed connections, love and loss.

As I type this I am listening to songs from my all time favorite band, Cool Hand Luke. I love complex, purposeful lyrics, and their ability to subtlely and patiently build to a climax. One of the songs, “Cinematic” reminds me of my first mission trip to Hungary. I used it during my presentation to the church after I returned to remind us all that successes and failures are not up to our efforts, but God’s will.


I remember listening to “One Time” on repeat as I finished my documentation after hours at my first real job – for which I felt woefully ill-prepared. I was a pediatric Occupational Therapist – responsible for the sensory, physical, mental, and academic development of my case load of children with disabilities. I typed to the beat of the music and sang the lyrics, “I can see for miles, you showed me that the mountain I’m climbing is not a mountain at all, but a gentle slope leading home.” It gave me strength to forge steadily onward in my job – and in life.

I remember describing to a friend in the car how I wanted to live my life. Free and unfettered, fully trusting in the Lord. I cued up the song “Friendly Jas” for her on my iPod and cried at the last few lines. They described my hopes, my philosophy of life, and my desire to share this journey with someone else. “Everything has changed, but our hope remains the same. And I want you to know that I’ll be here through a hundred years of rain. Together we run, to what we do not know, trusting on God who made tomorrow.” That’s how I wanted to live. It can still make me cry.

I recently had the immense privilege to meet Mark, lead singer of Cool Hand Luke through a mutual friend. It’s no secret; I was giddy. This guy, though we’d never met, had in one way walked with me in numerous trials and triumphs over the past decade of my life. The words, chords, and notes he wrote were a part of my story. It was a beautiful thing to shake his hand, encourage him for his focus on his craft, and say “Thank you, Mark, your music is very important to me. It is a huge part of the soundtrack of my life.”

My life has a soundtrack. And it’s more beautiful than I could have imagined.

Nov 24, 2012 - My Story    No Comments

Liquid Patience

There was a lot of texting going on yesterday. Friends saying, “Happy Thanksgiving!” or chatting about the fantastic deals they snagged on Black Friday. One friend’s comment caught my attention. He posted, “I’m drinking my liquid patience at Starbucks– getting ready for the mall.”

Liquid patience.

If only!

I needed liquid patience today. I didn’t sleep well, had rough patients, needed to have a potentially tough conversation with some friends. I felt off, un-resilient to life. My eyelids were heavy and my fuse was short.

I needed liquid patience.

But instead, I prayed. I prayed for grace for the moment. I prayed that as I drove home that I would have grace with the other drivers. I prayed that I would enter the house happily instead of crabby for my roommates’ sakes. I prayed that I would be given words of grace, seasoned with salt, instead of caustic, biting words. I prayed for liquid patience.

I think it worked.

And it’s cheaper than Starbucks and always available!

Nov 23, 2012 - My Story    No Comments

Thanksgiving and Black Friday

My brother is profound.

Especially for his age – he’s only fifteen, but can come out with some doozies.

This year, for the first time ever, I went Black Friday shopping. While I am not a fan of crowds, once inside I could sense the excitement and knew why people did this. It was like a drug. According to my receipts I saved over $200 today and spent just a small portion of that! My family frantically rushed from store to store to get the best Black Friday deals we could find. I snagged some seasons of hit TV shows for $8 a piece. Towels for just quarters and quality coffee for a few bucks too. My brother and I headed to Target at opening and waited in a line a few hundred people long to pay. We drove to three different stores to find the absolute best price on a Wii video game he wanted. As we were driving home, feet exhausted, packages piled high, he said, “Isn’t it funny that after we give thanks for everything we have on Thanksgiving, that we focus so much on getting more the very next day?”

Ouch.

So we take one day a year to give thanks, and our gratitude lasts only that long.

What would it be like to live in gratefulness? I think I’d like to find out.

Nov 23, 2012 - Uncategorized    No Comments

Quote-tastic!

I live my life in movie quotes. I it is one of my all time most favorite-est of things when I toss out a movie quote and others can play along. Not only is it fun and uniting, but often times my favorite quotes represent a beautifully crafted sentence which, as a wordophile, I envy!

Here’s a good one:

“Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic. Capable of both inflicting injury, and remedying it.” —Albus Dumbledore

Like, I said, beautiful sentence and sentiment, right?

I’m salivating at the possibility of crafting such a tidbit of truth!

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