Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Discovering the Word

I grew up in a Christian family, both immediate and extended.  Some of my earliest memories are of Sunday School and Vacation Bible School.  I even still remember snipets of sermons or personal testimonies that I heard as young as 5 years old-- little sections that resonated with me somehow or piqued my curiosity.

As I grew older that curiosity sparked a passion for research. I studied a lot and dug deeper and deeper into root words and learned about the culture and customs that influenced the people in the Bible.  I studied with ministers and rabbis, friends and family, and often I studied alone.  When I take notes in church services I often write down the actual names of the "characters" the minister references.  By 'actual' I mean, what their names were in the original semitic languages (namely Hebrew and Aramaic) versus Greek translation.  To me, it has significance and helps me connect to what I am learning.

Recently, I was listening to a new friend talk about Ananias (Hananyah) and Sapphira (Shappirah).  In Acts 5, it is written that Ananias and Sapphira sold some of their property and decided to keep some of the profit for themselves and give the rest to the church.  Seems simple enough, right? 

{Bear with me, I'm going to do some major paraphrasing. . .I suggest you read Acts 5}

Instead of simply giving the remainder of the profit and stating that they were choosing to keep some for themselves, Ananias and Sapphira told the church that they were giving ALL of the profit.  When questioned by Peter (Kefa), Ananias is adamant that he is offering up the full amount.  Peter, who knows that Ananias is not being truthful says something like "Why would you profess this to us and ultimately to the Holy Spirit?  The property was yours before you sold it and the profit is yours afterward.  You are under no obligation to give all of your profit, so why claim to be doing so?" Then, Ananias falls down dead. 

Three hours later Sapphira enters.  She has no idea that Ananias is dead.  Peter asks Sapphira if it's true that she and Ananias were in fact giving ALL of the money to the church, basically giving her a chance to be honest and simply say something like, "Look, homies, I gotta eat!  So, we kept some of our profit and we are giving the rest."  Instead she tells Peter that she is giving the FULL amount of the profit.  She falls over dead.

As we were studying this passage, of course the focus is on sin and the consequnces of sin.  Even though it is not common to hear of someone falling over dead immediately after lying, it is relevant to say that sin causes death in both the spiritual and physical sense.  I scribbled down "appearance" and "pride" because it seemed obvious to me that Ananias and Sapphira wanted others to think they were generous and selfless; they wanted to impress others with their giving but also remain comfortable.  My scribbling and jotting were suddenly interuppted when this friend exclaimed,

"They fell. over. DEAD!  Did you miss that?"

The rest of us watched him apprehensively. Ummm...isn't he missing the deeper point of the story?  No, we didn't miss that. We've heard this story 8,000 times over the course of our years on the planet.  Falling over dead is crazy but I'm digging deeper, here. . .hence my notetaking. AND I've told a lie before and did not fall over dead so. . .

Interrupting my thoughts he said, "I didn't grow up going to church.  I didn't experience the Bible, Sunday School, camps; we didn't pray.  I grew up godless and when I started in on my relationship with the Lord, at the age of 17, and I read this story I was like, 'What!?  Wow!' and that's how I felt after reading every story, every parable, every account.  This," he pointed at the passage in Acts, "is still amazing to me!  After 25 years of being a Christian, I am not desensitized to how incredible this is, how serious, how wonderful."

It was then that I realized that he was no longer specifically talking about Ananias and Sapphira instantly falling over dead for their sins.  He was talking about discovering the Word. He was talking about being in a lonely and hopeless state and finding Light.  He didn't have the opportunity to be taken to church every Sunday (or later forced to go as a teenager), to get bored with Bible stories growing up, to memorize songs, to debate hymns versus praise bands, if the punctuation used in one translation of the Bible versus another changes the meaning of the passage.

He experienced pain, darkness and weakness and then discovered Omnipotence, Light and Love and because of that, every word is sacred to him. Fresh.  Real.  Awe-inspiring. Every account, good and bad, wonderful and terrifying, is relevant to every facet of his life.  He came to the knowledge of something many of us have always had and tend to take for granted.

I want to be more impressionable and less theological.  I want to be awed instead of complacent. I want to re-discover the Word like that.

Friday, January 20, 2012

A Gaggle of Tweens

"I just thought I'd warn you, there is a gaggle of tweens headed this way."  -my bff Laura-

How do you know when you've spotted a gaggle of tweens?  Well, lucky for you, Laura and I defined all of this just tonight. 

A gaggle of tweens is three or more 11-13 year olds who are unsupervised, in public.  Dun dun duuuunnnn.  An official "gaggle", as defined by many online dictionaries and wikipedia, is five or more [geese], however, when it comes to tweens a gaggle equals three.

Like a gaggle of geese, tweens are known to slowly waddle walk on sidewalks and down the center of roads, hallways, and parking garages with no regard for your need to get by.  Gaggles of tweens are often noisy or disorderly making it difficult to enjoy yourself sans their incessant honking  talking/giggling. They are also known to hiss at you randomly (yes, both tweens and geese).  Even with a leader, both types of gaggles wander aimlessly, loudly and slowly.

I tried to snap a picture of a gaggle of tweens at the movie theatre tonight, inconspicuously, but then I realized as they sneered at me, that they invented the art of secretly taking pictures with an iPhone.  I could hear their tweeny minds thinking, "Who is that creepy old lady trying to take a picture of us while pretending she's not taking a picture?"  And to them I would say, "27 is NOT old!  And also, could you help me get back to the home screen?" 

Gaggles of tweens have changed since my day.  Back in the day tweens were consistently and consecutively louder and more obnoxious.  Today's gaggles of tweens often speak to one another via text message so there are longer bouts of silence.  It's always a strain on the senses when they start honking again after having enjoyed a few minutes of peace!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

If I Ever Marry

If I ever marry, I want a guy who will leave me alone while I am agonizingly sick; a guy who won't try to talk to me when I'm nauseous or in excruciating pain.  Someone who will, instead, quietly say, "I'll be out {insert verb here} golfing?  watching football?  hunting? call me if you're actually going to die."  And I will pathetically squeak back, "Thank you.  Please get out."

I am ill and injured frequently.  If you have followed me for very long, you know this.  Viruses, allergic reactions, migraines, certain foods and additives, pain from unfortunate tumbles down stair cases or car accidents, shoulder dislocations, stress. . .they all make me vomit.  I like to deal with the horrible pre-cursor symptoms alone.  Male voices increase nausea when I'm nauseous.  It's been that way since I was a child.  I love my brothers, but growing up, as soon as their voices changed I couldn't stand for them to say anything to me while I was sick.  It's weird; I'm aware of this.  So, randomly the other morning, I started thinking that if I ever do marry I have to have a guy who will "get" this about me and just leave.

However, if I ever marry, this same guy will need to know that after the worst is over and I'm curled up on the bathroom floor, thankful to still be alive but sort of hoping to die, I need some clear pedialyte, saltine crackers, and ice cubes.  Just place them by the bathroom door and another departure can be made. Don't move me to a comfortable bed, I prefer the cold bathroom floor and tiny rug.  I will need my iPhone however, so I can check work emails. 

That's it.  That's all I really want.  Someone who will not be freaked out by sporadic vomiting and stroke emulating migraines, who will leave me alone when I'm sick and bring me the necessities for recovery.  Oh yes, and he has to think I'm organically hilarious. It's the simple things, I guess.

I apologize to any close friends and family members who thought this was going to be some kind of romantic, whimsy-laced post about my dream wedding or a knight in shining armor.  If you felt hopeful before you read this, then you don't know me very well and we should go out for coffee sometime :)

Monday, January 16, 2012

No Words

I found myself pacing a little this evening.  Restless.  Naturally, I grabbed a pen and a spiral notebook with the intent to write down whatever thoughts were trying to get out and maybe doodle a bit to spark the flow of words.  The left hand corner of the page quickly became filled up with intricate, interlocking swirls sprouting tiny flowers and feathery figures. 

No words.

My pen zigged and zagged down the page, like a printed heart beat or rocky mountain peaks, and then the swirls followed.  The swirls were tighter, grasping each sharp beat so as not to slide off into the white abyss of the remainder of the piece of paper.  Oh, but then, one swirl lost it's grasp and rolled toward the middle of the page.  Some of it's swirl friends followed like raindrops until they reached the other side of the page. 

No words.

I studied the progression of my doodle design.  Flames.  The raindrop swirls needed to be illuminated with tiny flames as they rolled into the white abyss.  Unfortunately, drawing flames is not one of my talents and the swirls started to look more like creepy trolls.  Luckily, I only tried adding flames to two of the swirls.  The rest kept a safe distance from the creepy trolls on their way across the paper. 

No words.

Sigh.  I turned the page.  Blank.  My previous doodle was too spectacular to try to top so doodling was out of the question.  Words, words, words.  I need words; something is trying to get out.  I positioned my pen.  Just write the first thing that you think of. . .

Dear Grandma,

There it was.  There's too much I wanted to tell her.  Nearly 8 years of my life to fill in; my whole adult life so far.  Who knew I was craving to tell her?  Certainly not me.  Still no words came.  Where do I start?  I can't start.  She's gone and as much as I would like to think she's in heaven pining away to get a letter from me, I think she's actually in heaven, without pain or illness, celebrating with angels.  I have no words for her so I found her words.

My Great Grandma Bruns and I wrote letters to one another throughout my childhood and teen years.  She always doodled on the pages.  She used to write short stories for me.  My favorite was about a bee.  I can't find it anywhere; I looked and looked.  No words.

She used to send me money to purchase blank cassette tapes so that I could record myself singing and mail it back to her.  She was the only family member I sang for.  Outside of school sponsored solo competitions and choir, no one heard me sing until my late teens.  When everyone else, who had never really heard me sing and had only experienced my shyness, scoffed when I decided I wanted to pursue Broadway, my grandma wrote to me and said, "You should try!  You just need to gain confidence.  Confidence comes with age and practice and you are still so very young."

She wrote once, "I like that you have ambition.  Just be careful, you will hit an age when the mystery and excitement of a boy will cloud that ambition.  Make sure he's the one who will support you and share in your desires and not one who will make you abandon them." 

She was gentle and kind but firm.  She inspired me to write, to sing and to be myself.  I wanted more.  I wanted to be an adult with her; to visit her all the time instead of sporadically, to have tea with her and talk about butterflies.  

I was 19 when she passed away.  I was driving from Kansas City with my boyfriend, so that he could officially meet my parents, when I received the call.  I got through the weekend as best I could and even had fun with my family.  Ike was a hero that weekend and initiated us leaving early to drive straight to St. Joe, MO (a good 5 hour drive from my parents home) for the visitation.  I got through the talking and laughing.  I listened to my relatives tell their young children that Grandma was so happy to be in heaven.  I watched one little girl peer into the casket for a long time before finally turning around and saying, "You're right, mommy.  Grandma's not in that body anymore."

I stayed the night at Ike's parents house that night.  I curled up in a ball on the bed in the guest room. Ike sat next to me.  "Are you okay?"  After all the traveling and excitement of seeing relatives, the divvying up of her belongings, remaining composed through each interaction and mentally preparing for the funeral the next day, I was exhausted.  It was like staring at a blank page, knowing there was a lot to express yet having no words to really articulate it. 

"She's really gone,"  I sobbed. 

That was probably the one and only time I cried about her passing.  I stuffed the rest of my mourning down deep inside, because what was the point?  No need to cry all the time; suck it up and move on.  Tonight, 8 years of missing my friend and confidante coupled with never having really mourned caught up with me. 

There's a saying that God doesn't give us more than we can handle.  I honestly think it wasn't until just now that I was able to handle the actual act of mourning that loss.  Maybe that sounds ridiculous.  Back then, when I was 19, if I had really mourned for her I think I would have been trapped in that emotion; trapped in guilt for all the times I didn't. . .all the times I should have. . .  Tonight, though, I am able to feel sadness for the loss but the resounding emotion is one of joy.  She gave me her wisdom, her time, her stories, her love and support.  She made me want to be better.  To express that fully;  there are no words.  Sometimes there are just doodles. 

Friday, January 13, 2012

Five Minute Friday: Awake

Here are five minutes worth of thoughts on . . .Awake!
Yesterday, I drove carefully down farm roads lightly covered with a fresh dusting of snow. 
Ironically, even before Gypsy Mama assigned "Awake" as the Five Minute Friday topic, I was humming the Awakening Chorus.  In case you aren't familiar with this hymn, it's pretty spectacular when it's sung in a large congregation and/or by a talented choir.  I tried to find a You Tube video or mp3 to link to this post. . .but they all sounded less than desirable and I couldn't bring myself to make you listen to them! 
Cruising up and down hills, around bends and turns, I hummed a line then sang a line and snapped some pictures.
Awake! awake! and sing the blessed story;

Awake! awake! and let your song of praise arise;

Awake! awake! the earth is full of glory,

And light is beaming from the radiant skies;

The rocks and rills, the vales and hills resound with gladness,

All nature joins to sing the triumph song.
 The Lord Jehovah reigns and sin is backward hurled!

Rejoice! rejoice! lift heart and voice, Jehovah reigns!

Proclaim His sov’reign pow’r to all the world,

And let His glorious banner be unfurled!

Jehovah reigns! Rejoice! rejoice! rejoice! Jehovah reigns!

Ring out! ring out! O bells of joy and gladness;

Repeat, repeat anew the story o’er again,

Till all the earth shall lose its weight of sadness,

And shout anew the glorious refrain;

Ye angels in the heights, sing of the great Redeemer,

Who saves us from the pow’r of sin and death.

Under normal circumstances I would have zipped down each road, determined to make it to my destination but because I always practice a little caution when there is snow or ice on the ground, I took in the scenery and even stopped, got out of my car just to capture a herd of cows hanging out.  I felt alert; Awake!    

When I arrived at my destination, my sister's house, I found this sleeping boy:

At two days old, he does not want to be awake.  We tried to wake him up so we could see his eyes:
Despite our attempts, he just rubbed his sleepy eyes, made a terrible yet cute face and kept sleeping. He slept and slept and slept, for hours, until the last twenty minutes of my visit.  Suddenly, my sleepy, cuddly nephew was Awake!

Isn't he amazingly cute?  I think so too. 

 It's amazing how each and every one of my nephews and nieces influences me to awaken to my surroundings; to what really matters in life.  This week, what really mattered was a four hour road trip to see my newest nephew, his awesome older brother CK, my sister and brother-in-law, and of course my parents and little brother.  We just sat around and held a sleeping infant (and I played some Angry Birds with CK) but I never feel more alive or important or Awake! as I do when I've turned off my "work brain" for a while and I get to spend time with family. 

Friday, January 6, 2012

Five Minute Friday: ROAR

The Cotton Bowl is tonight.  Arkansas Razorbacks vs. Kansas State Wildcats.  I am an avid college football fan.  Well, more specifically, I am a grossly obsessed Arkansas Razorback football fan.  Under my suit jacket, I am wearing a t-shirt that says Woo Pig Sooie on the front in obnoxiously large lettering and a picture of a Razorback on the back.  Actually, I haven't worn my suit jacket for any more than 5 minutes today because even though I am breaking dress code by wearing a t-shirt, I can't hide my Arkansas pride!

The executives of the company I work for are just as die-hard about the KState Wildcats as I am about my Razorbacks so we're having a war of team colors, snide remarks, jokes about the opposite team.  They too are decked out in KState gear:  purple polo shirts.  There are threats that the Hog head hat I keep in my office might go missing today so I'm sticking close to my office.

I can't wait to tune in and hear the Roar of the crowd, those lucky enough to watch the game in person in Arlington, TX.  Even though I will be watching from a television, the crowd gets me excited.  I can't wait to continue the tradition of watching Razorback football with my nephew tonight.  He has quite a collection of Arkansas Razorback gear and I love that he loves it, for me.  Tonight, I will teach my nephew a little more about football as we watch the game.  In between victorious and excited Roars I am sure we will groan a little or stress a little but it's the ROAR that makes the game.  It's the ROAR that increases team pride and connects the fans.  Well, that and also winning ;)

Go Hogs!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

100th Post!!

Late at night I write.  Words and punctuation marks in all sizes, colors and fonts
 and bOuNce off of the walls and furniture. 

They s c a tt  e r and morph.  Some escape through the sliding glass door and disipate into the atmosphere, joining the clouds. They become lodged under chairs, the oven, between books on the shelf.   Some even absorb into the floor before I can catch them to piece together a thought.   Some of them, the strongest and most important, land firmly and wait patiently until I can grab them.  I appreciate those particular words because they wait for me while I attempt to catch the others as they slip under the door, out of my grasp. 

Late at night, words                       s  h  o  w  e  r                          me.
                                                       s  h  o  w  e  r
                                                       s  h  o  w  e  r
                                                       s  h  o  w  e  r
                                                       s  h  o  w  e  r
                                                       s  h  o  w  e  r

Some words rain down softly, mesmerizingly, overwhelmingly. Others are jagged, agonizing, and sharp; still others are slick and smooth.  I select them, swiping them out of the air, piecing soft with smooth and slick with jagged, all in an effort to articulate a story. 

Behind one hundred published posts are fifty more drafts; incomplete thoughts waiting for the right words to polish them off.  My hope is that somewhere in one or two or maybe even twelve of these posts, the words I have stitched together have told a story, expressed an idea, bonded us, evoked emotion in you.  I hope they produced laughter, especially if it was at my expense!  I hope they made you think.  I hope they made me grow.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

January 1, 2012: The Perfect Day

Perfect?  Yes.  January 1, 2012 was perfection.  It started off a little weird only because I woke up (at noon) thinking it was Saturday when it was actually Sunday.  That's what the holiday season does to me!  My schedule gets thrown off course by company-wide days off.  Holiday season 2011 was further complicated by my frequent trips to the doctor, all for super strange illnesses and / or allergic reactions that then led to illnesses.  Good times.  I haven't been sure of what the actual day is since October!

The first day of the New Year was perfect because:

I woke up without chest pain, for the first time in over two weeks! 

I spent hours of quality time with my bff Sades!  I really enjoy getting to know her as an adult. We learned that we have complete opposite tastes in perfume, colors that appeal to us, jewelry designs, and sweets (she HATES chocolate....that's right, it's pretty unbelievable!).  Sitting across from her in a coffee shop, she with her frozen-something-or-other and me with my cafe mocha, I just felt lucky.  I remember when she was a toddler and thinking to myself, "I hope, when she grows up, she's still awesome."  And she is!  I'm blessed to count her among my closest friends. 

I attended the evening church service and received an insightful message that I swear was just for me.  I couldn't believe how right on the sermon was.  It's also where I experienced being See Through

Later that night, I spent time with friends.  It was a relaxed evening with people I really should see more often.  Single, married, kids, no kids, careers--our statuses and phases of life have changed a lot since the days of playing laser tag and having nerf gun wars or going on canoe trips, watching movies and playing video games together.  Conversations were interrupted by cute little kiddos playing, needing attention, fighting and learning how to share. Perfect.

My perfect day extended into the early hours of January 2nd.  It was during the drive home that I realized that I'm getting to old for this staying out late stuff!  Sleep deprivation was worth the perfection of the day.

Monday, January 2, 2012

See Through

When you are dealing with something-- a very loaded and heavy something-- explaining it is too difficult.  Defining it is impossible.  Seeking understanding is distant and improbable.  The act of dealing with it combined with the lack of outlet and understanding creates an ache and eventually graduates up into chest pain resulting in new relationships with medical specialists. 

Then, sometimes, when you have resolved to letting this particular struggle stay invisible to the outside world a dear church friend will sit down in your pew at church right before the service starts and say something that strikes your very core. It's as if she sees right through you.  Without explanation, she understands that very loaded heavy something that you are struggling with.  In a few short sentences, she has validated you and spoken words of encouragement and hope. 

For a person who defaults to guarding emotion from others, being see through or open is scary--until it happens.  Once it happens, a little bit of weight lifts up off your chest.  A little bit of built up, walled off, crocodile guarded emotion is released.  A kindred spirit is forged in the space between the souls in the pew.  To that person, being see through becomes a blessing; a quiet validation that she is not alone in her struggle.