Archive | Hope RSS feed for this section

Grieving Christmas Before Moving Into 2014

3 Jan
It's A Small World will go back to being normal, too.

It’s A Small World will go back to being normal, too.

I’ll admit it, I’m grieving the holiday season. It’s over. The tree is about to go to the recycling spot. The twinkling lights are in a ball on my living room floor because I just haven’t had the heart to put them away yet. The Christmas cards are still hanging next to my door, but those too will soon come down. Last remenants of Christmas candy and cookies are in our pantry either to be forgotten in leiu of healthier options.

It was a good Christmas. It was relaxing to be with family. It was nice to go to church again with my dad and to remember how much Jesus loves us. It was neat to see a whole gaggle of kids open presents again at my husband’s family Christmas party. It was good to take a flight again and then to drive through the desert home with Mark.

I like peppermint mochas, the smell of pine. I like looking at mall santas and seeing how closely they resemble the Santa Claus of collective memory. I like the traditions. Seeing the same Christmas ornaments come out and adorn the tree year after year. It gave me a sense of stability for another year full of lots of changes. I liked having permission to not look for a job. I liked knowing that I’ll have a few days of rest and my mom’s cooking. I enjoyed a Christmas party with college friends who have all come back together after marriages, babies, and job transitions.

And then came the rest of the holidays. New Year’s Eve wasn’t really on our calendar. I figure we would just get to it eventually. And we did. More with a wimper than a bang. Mark was sick with what I think is bronchitis and he threw out his back that day. While I’d hoped we’d be able to go for a bike ride, we were mostly inside for a few days. It wasn’t all bad. I roasted my first chicken! We had our first two Monopoly games together! And last night, we discussed God in a new way. We wondered if he was trying to tell us something considering we’ve both been so sick lately. We talked about churches and what we both hope to get out of one. It was good to talk. I’m glad we’ve been sick because it’s forced us to be together to talk and figure things out. We’re in new season and new is often hard at first until it becomes more familiar.

Grieving is like that. It’s looking back. Fondly remembering. Acknowledging the loss and being able to move on. 2013 was a good year. And the holidays that followed at the end were nice. Sweet times with family. Fun with kids. Lots of game playing, eating good food, and resting. Time to be thankful and remember the blessings I have.

Now it’s time to get to work. 2014 is going to be the year I pursue life and go after what God has for me in a new way!

When Will The Rhythm Come?

14 Nov

For weeks I’ve been trying to write something to completely capture my various emotions throughout this season, but I’ve come up short. Through engagement, moving, wedding planning, the wedding, honeymooning, and now returning to my new home, I’ve felt everything from extreme happiness to complete shock. I’m navigating through a fantastic, fun, but also lonely season that no one really talks about in marriage books. I’m in a haze. I don’t have a wedding to plan and I’m trying to get used to a man sleeping in my bed.

But here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

I’ve gained a husband and a new apartment. I’ve gained a great new city. I have a lot of great stuff for my kitchen. I go to the library again. I’ve learned to snorkel and zip line and ride unconventional buses in Mexico. I’ve watched more than one World Series game. I had the best wedding ever. I’ve mellowed out in a lot of ways because I’m not sitting on the 405. I get to start things over. I’m thankful. Truly.

But I’ve lost my rhythm.

These kind of look like the shoes I have

These kind of look like the shoes I have

When I was a kid, I had this dream of being a tap dancer. I actually still have new tap shoes that I keep to remind me of that dream that never materialized. In retrospect, I never was great with rhythm in terms of dancing. I was off beat, insecure, and always felt the other people in the classes I took were better than I was. But in other areas, I had great rhythm. I was an excellent student who thrived in the confines of school and rose to the occasion when teachers gave me assignments. I also thrived in ministries. I showed up, I figured out what to do and how to do it with gusto. Since 2008, I’ve known exactly where I was going to be on Wednesday nights. It’s kind of nice.

A few months ago, my friend, Sarah, who is one of the most creative people I know, mentioned the word “structure.” I shuddered a little bit. Because I like to be unconventional and rebellious in my own way, I have hated to think I need a routine or a structure. I’ve always thought that I was too creative for that. My mom keeps telling me I’m wrong…when Sarah told me structure is good, my jaw dropped open and I secretly wondered if she had been taken and replaced by someone else.

The more I thought about it and the more I’m still considering “structure,” I realizing that I feel like I’m tumbling head over feet in a wave of newness, looking for something familiar so that I can put my feet down on solid ground. Like Sarah, I need to find my structure, or rhythm. I was listening to an unfamiliar jazz station here on the radio when it hit me.

I wonder if I’m like a good jazz song.

Right now, it seems like there’s no reason and there’s a lot of instruments making different sounds. But as you listen, it starts to make sense. The familiar notes start to repeat but at different speeds and in little bits and tastes instead of the way it is in traditional music when you hear the same verse over and over. Maybe I’m like that. Finding different parts of myself in a new way. It just takes time for the undercurrent of the rhythm to take hold.

I started thinking of that song lyric, “I’ve got rhythm…I’ve got music, I’ve got my man who could ask for anything more?” Well, I’ve got the man but the other two are kind of hazy at the moment. I have more questions than answers at this point, but I’m glad I’m putting some of these thoughts down into writing.

Instead of being impatient, I’ll just keep asking questions and reminding myself that transition takes time and I decided to do three huge ones at once. What does my rhythm look like? I don’t know quite yet. So I’ll keep feeling the feelings, writing them out, and asking God to lead me, even in the mundane. Hopefully as I start to be more intentional about my days, the rhythm will come. And it will be a sweet sound when I begin to dance.

Quitting, Leaving, New Beginnings, And All Of That

22 Aug

Beach walkWell, I did it. I quit. Why did I quit my job, you ask? With less than two months before I get married, it’s time to make this transition and fully focus on the bittersweet process of leaving my old life and starting my new one. Some of you I’ve told in person, others may be finding out for the first time…I’m sorry if I haven’t had the chance with all of the craziness to talk to you all one on one, but at the end of September, I’m moving to San Diego County. I’m not going to say this has been the easiest thing for me. In fact, it’s been incredibly hard. But I think it will be good for many reasons. And it’s not like I’m moving to Djibouti.  It’s two hours away.

I’ll soon be entering into the unfamiliar territory called marriage and in order to do that well, I need to give myself time to process my life here in LA and all that this has meant for me. I need time to fulfill this bucket list of things that I’ve never done but have always wanted to do. Taping of Jeopardy anyone? A visit to Sprinkles? Touring some of those incredible looking churches on Wilshire I drive by sometimes? Also, most importantly to my soul at this point, I need to not sit on the 405 for three hours a day anymore. So, I’m leaving my job.

I’ve been in LA since 1998 and I’ve wanted to move to here since I was 10 years old and had the dream of becoming a “performing artist”, as I liked to call it. I even did a report on this when I was in 7th grade. My freshman year of college at USC, I made part of this dream a reality and I moved out here. Then I fulfilled another dream  of learning about film and television and got into USC’s film school. Not knowing what to expect, I fumbled my way through my freshman year as a Midwesterner public school kid in a California private school. I figured out how to write college papers, made some surface friends and then later some real friends, and learned a ton. I also became a Christian, which completely changed my priorities.

Upon graduation, I had several fun but crazy jobs in entertainment, I co-wrote a screenplay, wrote a play, worked on several TV shows, and realized that what I wanted most in this crazy city was a place of belonging. So I joined a women’s life group and a church and faced the world, relationships, breakups, unemployment and disappointments with others by my side.

I love LAI’ve grown to LOVE Los Angeles in many ways. I know it. It’s familiar. I’ve lived here longer than I’ve lived anywhere. It’s eclectic, diverse, interesting, never boring, urban, suburban in parts, and it’s the city where my dreams turned from superficial ones where I would become the female Steven Spielberg to where I learned how to follow Christ with all my heart, love justice, be a friend, serve, love, be broken, and be rebuilt again. It’s where I learned that money wasn’t everything, friendships could be fought for, and sticking to my true values in romantic relationships was more important than the feeling of being loved that I was so desperately chasing. LA has shaped me. I have so many memories here. As my time comes to a close, I hope to write about some of them and share what I’ve learned. I hope to end this chapter well and on my own terms so that I can enter my new life with a healthy outlook, spiritually grounded.

When I joined ChristianMingle and “smiled” at Mark, I did not know where San Marcos was. I thought it was a lot closer until I looked it up on a map.  We’ve been doing the 100 mile drive almost every weekend since April 2012. That’s a lot of miles. We’re both ready for that to be over and can’t wait to actually come home at the end of the day and get to be together.  With that happy possibility looming, it’s making my departure from the LA life brighter. I have hopes for the future. I want to be able to drive to the beach in 15 minutes. That will be awesome. I’ll hopefully be able to go to Mission Bay frequently and meet Shamu, finally. I hope for new friends, a new dream, and to fully launch my writing career that has been birthed out of my time here in LA.

Lots to do. 58 days till my wedding. 10 more work days, 20 more commutes. I’m doing this!

Idealism On Pause: Musing About The Hardest News Week In Recent Memory Accompanied By Ray LaMontagne

19 Apr

 

Although not the Boston Marathon, this one was my first experience with the "heart" that runners have for excellence and perseverance

Although not the Boston Marathon, this one was my first experience with the “heart” that runners have for excellence and perseverance

It’s 9:17PM on Friday, April 19, 2013. It’s a Ray LaMontagne “Trouble” rather than a Taylor Swift “Trouble” kind of night. I don’t feel much like doing anything except for enjoying the creature comforts of my childhood — old episodes of “Growing Pains” and macaroni and cheese. I thought after this week I’d want to go out with friends but truth be told, I don’t have the energy. I barely made it home after sitting in LA traffic and having a mild panic attack because they finally caught “Suspect 2” from the Boston Marathon bombings.

 

I wonder if others felt what I felt this week. I don’t have a TV but I was glued to the news feed and radio, obsessed with learning everything I could about the Boston Marathon bombings, chase, pursuit, and key players. I stayed up late every night feasting on the latest “breaking news”, which, as one of my friends pointed out, seemed as if it were being directed by Michael Bay (think summer blockbuster movie with lots of explosions and his name is probably all over it). It’s strange to think that news can be “breaking” all week. The newness wears off at some point, but it didn’t really for me. For some reason, I just had to know what was going on.I felt like if I missed it, I’d be unable to help, even though there’s really nothing I can do aside from pray, which I could barely do.

 

I’m having what my friend calls “a dry spell” with God. I’m not really sure why but in times like this when I get totally overwhelmed with bad news and I sit in it for too long, I start to realize how much I really need God and how horrible a world without God would be. I think of those who don’t have his comfort because they don’t have a relationship with him and it saddens me to the point of tears.

 

I wonder what else I could be doing tonight. The anxiety surrounds me like a blanket. I know I’m safe. I know God is good but I can’t help but wonder what people in Boston thought as they quickly watched their town turn into a police state. Running free on Monday to locked in their houses as the police searched up and down for a 19-year-old accused of wreaking havoc on a city and the American psyche as a whole. I don’t know what to do with that. 19 years old. And the 26-year-old. I think about what I was doing at 26 and it definitely didn’t involve 200 rounds and robbing a 7-11.

 

“Sometimes it feels like worry is my only friend.” Ray sings. 

 

That was me today. Worry and anxiety seemed like constant companions.  Was it the stress of covering a busy CEO’s desk? Or did it really have to do with me experiencing what my life coach calls “the dark side” of my strengths individualization and empathy? Apparently when those two talents are paired in a person, it can mean that one has a blind spot and can overly experience situations and emotions of others all around them. If this is true, it explains why after this exhausting week both at work and news wise, I’m just spent. Over. Done. Cooked goose.

 

I thought about those people all stuck in their homes in fear today. What kind of a world do we live in right now when someone can set off a bomb affecting hundreds of lives and then set off a police chase affecting millions more just four days later? I’m having an increasingly tough time with that. And yet, I know that the police worked so diligently together. They caught the suspect. They made the streets safe. For that, I am grateful. The waving American flags. Bostonians with smiles on their faces for the first time since the marathon’s beginning. And now that the fear has subsided, the city of Boston cheers tonight because they can come out of their houses a little less fearful.

 

Hope in the desert

Hope in the desert

If you want the honest truth, some days I don’t know how to live in a world where weeks like this one are commonplace. I don’t know how we can just get “used to” school shootings, bombings, poisonous letters, 8 year olds dying, demented doctors getting away with murder, entire towns blowing up, and the like. I don’t know how to pray for that, because doing so would admit that this world is so very broken and I don’t often like seeing it that way even though it is true. As an idealist, I prefer the rose-colored glasses. Oceans. Sunsets. Nature. People loving one another well. Bubbles. Babies and puppies. Silly smiles. Meadows. Fresh laundry. Anything good you’d see on Pinterest. But right now, I don’t have the words to pray. My faith feels fragile tonight. It’s hard to see the good in this moment. Yes, the terror has subsided. But a small part of me wonders “What next? Will next week be worse?”

 

As Ray sings these lyrics from “Empty,” I pause.

 

Asking questions that don't have easy answers

Asking questions that don’t have easy answers

“There’s a lot of things I don’t understand/Why so many people lie/Well, it’s the hurt I hide that fuels the fires inside me/ Will I always feel this way/So empty, so estranged?” 

I let myself sit there while the words hang in the air for a moment.

And then, slowly, as if coming out of a fog, I remember the words of my pastor last Sunday. We’re currently in a series called “Sifted”, which is about how following Christ means we’ll go through trials. He said, “Hold on. Cling on tight. Don’t waste a sifting because we’re all going to be sifted.”

In my doubts, in my fears and anger and grief about this situation and others this week, I’ll do my best to cling. I’ll not waste it. I’ll do my best to see a bigger picture where people come out of their houses after a horrible week so that they can wave flags and smile because justice has been done. I will choose hope, once again.

Another song just came on…

 

“I will shelter you…I will shelter you…I will shelter you.”

I will do my best tonight, despite my uneasiness, to cling to that promise.

 

The Eulogy I Gave For My Grandma

14 Mar

I wrote this the night before her memorial service. Some of it I ad-libbed, so it actually went over really well in person. Reading it might leave a lot to be desired but some wanted me to share it with them! Here it is:

 

On behalf of the Mills family, I want to thank you all for being here today. My grandma, Loma Mills, has meant a lot to so many people, and your presence here signifies just how many lives she impacted during her 93 years here on earth.

 

Grandma pics Her roles were many. She was the eldest daughter of Frank and Alice Oesterle, German farmers living here in Marion. She was a sister to Ruth Staub and Doris Beaver. She was also a high school history teacher for 32 years, a wife to John, a mother to three sons, Judd, Craig, and Kim. A grandmother to 7 (Laurel, Stacy, Jenna, me, Belinda, Chris, and Josh) and great grandmother to Gretchen, Nick, Hannah, Jake, Josie, and Oliver.  She was a friend to so many different types of people, whether you knew her for a few minutes or for decades. Even last year, she wrote more than100 Christmas cards to people she loved.

 

Family. Firey. Fiercely Independent. Spunky. Kind. Giving, Woman of Great Faith, Generous, Charitable, Optimistic, Saw the Silver Lining, Avid reader, Loved children, celebrating holidays, and God. These are all words that people in Loma’s family used to describe her. My cousin, Belinda, always laughs because when I was younger I said of Grandma that she was a tough cookie. She’d been through a lot and just kept on going.

 

One word that keeps coming up for me that I think described my grandma the best is grit. My grandma had “grit.” I looked it up in the dictionary.  Grit is “the firmness of mind or spirit, unyielding courage in the face of hardship or danger.” Loma learned independence from an early age. Her father was a frugal man who made wise investments in other farms during her early years, which happened to be during the Great Depression.  Her mother used the money that she got from selling her chicken’s eggs to clothe my grandmother and her two sisters. Committed to educating his three daughters,  Frank insisted that Loma, Ruth, and Doris go to college, which they all did.

 

The values of faith, family, charity, and a hard work ethic were instilled in my Grandma from an early age and she passed them on to all of us. And we are so grateful for these.

Because we’re all knew my Grandma differently, I thought I’d share a few reflections on her life.

 

A glimpse into Loma’s inner life:

 

Grandma was a full time mother and full time teacher as well as a farm owner simultaneously, before it was cool to be all of those things at the same time. Grit.

 

Grandma and GrandpaShe raised her eldest son, Judd, alone for two and a half years while her husband, John, was off at war.

 

Her faith inspired me and others she knew to care about the less fortunate and beyond it all, trust in God. She would often say to me in a knowing voice, “Kid (because she called everyone “kid”), life is hard. But the Lord is with you. He is.” More than anything, she believed that we were to cling closely to God. Whether I was going through a breakup, a move, or another traumatic life event for a young adult, my Grandma would encourage me and all of us in her determined voice that God would and could help, if we let him into our lives.

 

 

-Grandma loved bonfires, Weenie roasts, and pig roasts. If someone were having a birthday, we’d all go out into the back yard and roast weenies in a bonfire.

 

-Grandma also loved lawncare- We couldn’t believe it when she actually hired people to do her lawn because well into her 70s, grandma would be seen tending to her flowers and mowing her acres of lawn by herself, waving to those passing by.

 

-Grandma had a keen fashion sense which she passed on to her granddaughters, great-granddaughters, and daughter-in-laws. To show our love and appreciate of that, we are all wearing hats from the Loma Mills collection.

 

-Vacation – Our family has been taking an annual vacation to Rehoboth Beach, Deleware since 1953. Boardwalk. Funland. Grotto’s Pizza. Rented beach umbrellas. Apartment over Lingo’s market. This was a family tradition that was etched into our lives, since we’ve been going there for so long. It was one of her favorite yearly traditions.

 

-YMCA – Grandma often used to wake up at 5AM to go swimming at the Y up until her 90s. In fact, I just met two of her Y friends before the service who reminded me of how much Grandma loved that daily ritual.

 

-She was also a dedicated sister to Doris and Ruth, with Doris even being across the street. She really looked up to and was grateful to be near her sisters both spiritually and physically. With the Beavers living across the street, their children had memories together. This meant that our family has an entire set of second and third cousins that are actually very close and share holidays and vacations together.

 

-She’d often have 70 person family reunions in her two bedroom cape cod making traditional Thanksgivings and other meals.

 

-An evidence of my Grandma’s grit is this: “Consider it pure joy my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because the testing of your faith, developed perseverance. Perseverance must finish it’s work, so you can be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4. Her steadfast strength in life and in God were her foundation and she took trials as they came, looking to God for help during troubled times.

 

-Baking cookies and pies. Always a pecan or apple pie waiting or on its way when I visited.

 

-She loved her sweets. My cousin, Belinda, reminded me that she would make people go to two or three different drug stores until she found her favorite, Russell Stover’s candies.

 

-She was a woman of habit, making her infamous Santa Cookies. It was an orchestrated event down to a science. It wasn’t just a dedication to tradition and the holidays IE holiday cookie making, you weren’t just signing up for cookie making, but more a full-fledged production, with 15 minutes spent decorating each cookie.

 

-Grandma wouldn’t want a big “to do” for her funeral. I think she’s glad that we’ve come together as family and friends to celebrate her life because togetherness is what she always wanted and loved best. She might say this if she were here, paraphrased a bit from a poem that Matt Burke, my grandma’s favorite grandson-in-law:

 

”Speak to me in the easy way which you always used to Put no difference in your tone, Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes we enjoyed together.”

 

In that spirit, let me tell you the ice cream story. We were driving in the car in the summer with the windows down. I was about 10 or 12 years old. Grandma had just treated Belinda and me to ice cream. The day before, I had gone to my first ever pig roast at the Lashey’s house and Belinda hadn’t been able to make it. Grandma was always a little bit absent minded so as she was describing how big the pig was, she took her ice cream like this (open arms wide) and it flew out the window, only leaving the cone left! This was a typical kind of story you’d hear about my grandma.

 

To finish, she had a solid 93 years. I think she’d be pleased to see how life came full swing. I don’t think there’s anything else she would have wanted to accomplish in her life. This is her legacy. We are her legacy.

 

And now I’d like to invite her grandchildren and great-grandchildren up to read a poem that was one of our Grandma’s favorites, “The House By The Side Of The Road”.

 

Grandma’s Favorite Poem

11 Mar

I’ve just returned from Ohio where we laid my grandma to rest. She’s leaving quite a hole in our family, but it was so good to be together. The next few posts will probably be about her, as she left a lasting impression.

As part of her funeral, my cousins read from a poem that my grandma recited when she was young, winning an oratory contest for her performance. The poem is called “The House By The Side Of The Road” and perfectly encapsulates what my Grandma believed in. She grew up in a house by the side of the road, just like this one. She was a friend to man, just as the person in the poem is. It’s strange how much this poem that she read when she was young ended up emulating what her life’s experience was.

This is my Grandma's house. It's on 80 acres of farm land.

This is my Grandma’s house. It’s on 80 acres of farm land.

The House by the Side of the Road

There are hermit souls that live withdrawn
In the place of their self-content;
There are souls like stars, that dwell apart,
In a fellowless firmament;
There are pioneer souls that blaze the paths
Where highways never ran-
But let me live by the side of the road
And be a friend to man. 
Let me live in a house by the side of the road
Where the race of men go by-
The men who are good and the men who are bad,
As good and as bad as I.
I would not sit in the scorner’s seat
Nor hurl the cynic’s ban-
Let me live in a house by the side of the road
And be a friend to man. 
I see from my house by the side of the road
By the side of the highway of life,
The men who press with the ardor of hope,
The men who are faint with the strife,
But I turn not away from their smiles and tears,
Both parts of an infinite plan-
Let me live in a house by the side of the road
And be a friend to man. 
I know there are brook-gladdened meadows ahead,
And mountains of wearisome height;
That the road passes on through the long afternoon
And stretches away to the night.
And still I rejoice when the travelers rejoice
And weep with the strangers that moan,
Nor live in my house by the side of the road
Like a man who dwells alone. 
Let me live in my house by the side of the road,
Where the race of men go by-
They are good, they are bad, they are weak, they are strong,
Wise, foolish – so am I.
Then why should I sit in the scorner’s seat,
Or hurl the cynic’s ban?
Let me live in my house by the side of the road
And be a friend to man. 
Sam Walter Foss

March Musings

5 Mar
Sunset at Santa Monica March 30, 2011

Sunset at Santa Monica March 30, 2011

I’m just writing something short to say “Welcome” to some of my new and old readers. My goal in 2013 is to really write more on my blog and hopefully focus it a bit more. I so appreciate you reading it and giving your input. I’m also doing some guest blogs this week and in coming weeks for my friends, Dave and Nan and for one of my favorite organizations, A Beautiful Mess. So glad to get to share my heart as I’m learning more about God, life, dating, and waiting.

As I think about life this week, I’m reminded once again to slow down. I cancelled all my plans for the week because on Thursday, I’m flying to Ohio to be with family to celebrate the life of my grandma, who died Sunday night. She was a pistol. Sometimes you never knew what she was going to say. So many crazy stories about her…I’m looking forward to sharing memories with our family this weekend and for her memory. She was a bold one! I only hope to be that audacious in my life!

All that to say, sometimes the silly things I worry about are trivial. This week, hug a friend or family member and express to them what they really mean to you. Say “I’m sorry” where you need to. Keep short accounts. Love well, trust more, and be open. Enjoy a sunset, be grateful for life.

2012 Was, In Many Ways, A Horrible Year…And Yet…

10 Jan
Can We Dare To Hope After A Year Like 2012?

Can We Dare To Hope After A Year Like 2012?

It’s that time of year when we consider where we’ve been and where we want to go. Let’s look back in hopes that it can help us make sense of things so as to move forward:

Oh Lord, you know us so well. You know when we sit and when we rise. You perceive all of our thoughts from afar…

2012 was a very disturbing year in a lot of ways. I became increasingly aware of how fragile life is and how hard grief can hit home when, in February, a 15-year-old kid took his own life by jumping off of his school roof in the town next to the Community Center where I worked. The trend continued when, in July, a gunman shot and killed 12 people in the mall where I grew up. How chilling. How unexpected. Death seemed so close. And to what purpose?

You know this season that we are in where it is hard to see the good amidst all of the pain...

In the fall, death knocked again and I lost my Grandmother. Although not sudden, I didn’t really have the opportunity to say goodbye because life got in the way and I had to keep moving forward. With the end of the year came the end of the world, or so said the Mayans. A minute part of me thought that maybe it would actually happen because although I’m not a cynical person, the news seems to be getting worse lately and fear is at an all time high. I wouldn’t believe it if it wasn’t reflected in some of our movies like “The Dark Knight Rises” where, for most of the film, Batman is thwarted by a pervasive evil that he just can’t seem to overcome. Half of me thought he wouldn’t be able to beat Bane but the title did have “Rise” in the title, which gave me a little hope.

 You know all of our suffering. 

So many questions, where are all of the answers?

So many questions, where are all of the answers?

And then in the political arena came doomsday talk of “If Obama wins, it’s over” and “If Romney wins, the country will never be the same.” And although I’ve never really seen a James Bond film, can someone tell me why even the title, “Skyfall”, sounds so ominous? And does he always let women die in these movies? I found it more than a little disturbing that some psychopath, played by Javier Bardem, was so obsessed with killing Judy Dench’s character that the whole movie was based on some sort of misogynistic revenge plot against women. James Bond, himself, wasn’t much better, letting the Bond girl die when, minutes later he was rescued via helicopter. He could have stopped her from getting shot. Amidst all of that came Newtown and the tragedy that struck there. What a horrific cap to an already collectively tough year for us all. Where is the hope when 6 year olds get murdered just for showing up to school?

Comfort the needy. Bring peace to the anxious. 

As a caveat to explain my morose tone, I write this at the beginning of January, two days after learning that my dad’s cousin, who was like an aunt to me, lost her 7 year battle to breast cancer. And all that I can do is cry out. Oh Lord, why? Where’s your hope? Where is your peace? Can you please comfort us?

Can We Approach 2013 with Child-like Innocence?

Can We Approach 2013 with Child-like Innocence?

I can’t help but believe that we need God more than ever now. We need more good news. More good stories. Stories of hope and life. Stories to help us remember that the news isn’t so bleak and that we’re going to make it through this dark season.

 Hear our cry, oh Lord and grant us hope and grace to love despite the evil in this world.

On a cold (for California) night when we’re just ten days into the new year, dare I hope that joy is still here? Dare I pray for God to show up in the midst of all of this? Dare I not?! I have to cling. Because clinging is all I really know how to do to cope with all which seems overwhelming.

Hebrews says it best: “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful.”

Unswerving. That means to hold on tight no matter what. When the waves are high, when the outlook is bleak. When my soul is downtrodden. When bad things happen to good people. When trying seems pointless. When effort feels wasted. When people die. When the unexpected happens and the healthy become sick. When love is lost. When jobs don’t pan out. When I’m feeling alone and unsure. I hope. I cling.

Help us now, God. We need you. 

So I dare to hope that 2013 is a year of adventure and newness. I hope for a rebirth. I hope for love. I hope for new beginnings and fresh starts. To put behind what was and to hold tight to the hope that I have not yet seen. I hope for good finishes to things I’ve completed and many moments where I’m able to release the breath I’ve had all pent-up in my throat so that I can find peace. With myself. With my life. With death. And with God.

Amen. 

Hope On A LilypadAnd so the whole prayer, we say again slowly, hopefully, and together: Oh Lord, you know us so well. You know when we sit and when we rise. You perceive all of our thoughts from afar. You know this season that we are in where it is hard to see the good amidst all of the pain. You know all of our suffering. Comfort the needy. Bring peace to the anxious. Hear our cry, oh Lord and grant us hope and grace to love despite the evil in this world. Help us now, God. We need you. Amen. 

 

 

 

Taylor Swift Thinks We Should Fall Into Love. Without Being A Cynic, I Disagree

25 Oct

Goofy picture. Really goofy. My idea. Good one? I look ridiculous.

I recently became a high school leader at my church’s youth group on Wednesdays.  Last night, I had the distinct privilege of getting to hear thoughts on love from a group of smart, in-tune, and vocal 14 year old girls while they discussed our culture’s idea of romantic love.

I’m not an ageist but the girls’ remarks were surprisingly self-aware and wise!

What I learned from this conversation, took me years of counseling and several dead-end relationships with unrealistic expectations (on my part) to discover and they are only 14. I was impressed.

While I don’t remember the exact quote, I do remember the girls excitedly talking over each other about how popular culture tells them that love means ball gowns, princesses, and “forever”. One girl reminded me that Sleeping Beauty got married after one kiss.

“ONE KISS!” she cried. “And she was asleep!”

Another girl assured me that she’s been through “all of that” (love) and believe it or not, it’s not the way it turns out. What?! What the heck was I doing at 14? Oh yeah, still playing house.

While I was intrigued by the girls’ realization about romantic love in this day and age, I realize that knowing something in your head and then following it through in your actions are two different things.

These same young girls who seem to know that Disney princesshood is not real also read Twilight and scream when a Taylor Swift song comes on.  And who could blame them? I have an annual pass to Disneyland and I like TSwift just as much as the next girl. I sing her songs at the top of my lungs in the car with my roommate. I’ll probably sing some tonight since my roommate just bought “Red.”

But I have to call TSwift out.  Taylor’s philosophy on “love” is a little off the mark:

“The way I look at love is you have to follow it, and fall hard, if you fall hard. You have to forget about what everyone else thinks,” she said in a Rolling Stone interview.  “It has to be an us-against-the-world mentality. You have to make it work by prioritizing it, and by falling in love really fast, without thinking too hard. If I think too hard about a relationship I’ll talk myself out of it. …I have rules for a lot of areas of my life. Love is not going to be one of them.” –Taylor Swift

Oh Taylor, Taylor, Taylor…you’ve done so well to make millions off of these beliefs. I give you credit for being someone who has profited more off of failed relationships than just about anyone I can think of. You’re only 22. I felt like you did when I was 22 but I’m not sure you realize what you’re doing to your soul when you buy into that methodology. Or what you’re doing to the souls of your followers, 14 year olds worldwide who may not be as wise as my young friends.

I’m all about giving yourself to something you believe in, but going into love blindly is just stupid. I say this because I’ve done it. My  friends have done it.

You can’t just check your brain at the door when it comes to love, or you’ll end up hurt and embarrassed quite possibly making decisions you regret for the rest of your life.  

If Taylor doesn’t believe me, then why does she get so freaked out when Ellen parades her ex’s pictures in front of her?

If anything, you need to start thinking MORE when you decide to get in a relationship. I’m not talking about neurotic insecure overthinking that women especially can sometimes tend to do.  I’ve also been that kind of girlfriend.

You need  to think about the kind of relationship you’re getting into before you fall into it. Is it wise? Do you have friends and family keeping you accountable to staying grounded? Are you a better person when you’re with the person or without them?  Does this person treat you well? How do you treat them? Are you even ready to be in a relationship or do you need to maybe take a break and try to determine what patterns you have when it comes to dating? Are you making being in a relationship an idol, believing that a guy/girl will make all of your dreams come true?  A song about these questions might be boring but most of us are looking for healthy relationships, not a serial dating history.

I just found out that Taylor and Conor Kennedy are kaput. Am I surprised? He was a high school senior, only 18. She was jetsetting around the world making a ton of money on songs about her ex-boyfriends. It wasn’t really going to work out anyway, was it?

Friends and Taylor (if by some crazy chance you’re reading this). Take stock. Sit with some of these questions. You need to ask the hard questions if you want to have a healthy, lasting, and mature relationship.  That’s part of becoming and being an adult.  You have to think about your decisions and ask yourself, “Is this wise?” If it’s not, don’t even go there.

My young friends don’t need more examples of fairytale endings that aren’t realistic or breakups that could have been prevented. They need examples of good, solid, low-drama relationships full of love, acceptance and grace.  But that might not sell records. And I’m okay with that.

What One Thing Is My Best Friend And Worst Enemy?

24 Sep

“Words, Melissa. Words.”

This three “word” sentence has been following me around. It mostly started off as a joke between Mark and myself, when one of us (usually me) would say something that would come off sounding unintentionally hurtful. We all have hot buttons that people who we trust can push. With a few little words, I know that I could say something incredibly harsh and painful to the people I love the most and vice-versa. Words can hurt or words can help. They can bring life or they can bring death…

I’ve been studying words all weekend, unintentionally.

I happened to be at a park watching a soccer game full of 10 year olds on Sunday when I heard the coach yelling at one of his players. Mind you, this kid was 10! “Pedro, that’s not good enough. There’s no excuse for that! What are you doing?!” the coach yelled, as Pedro missed “heading” a ball. I couldn’t help but thinking, does this man know the damage he is inflicting on Pedro? Will Pedro be sitting in his therapist’s office 15 years from now still trying to live up to this man’s expectations? I certainly hope not ,but then I think back to things that people have said to me and they do stick.  What Pedro probably needed in that moment wasn’t a scolding but an encouragement from a man he looks up to. But the coach didn’t offer him that. And sadly, in a way, he failed little Pedro.

In another episode on the train, I heard a young woman talking to a new acquaintance in a rather loud voice. From listening to her words, I could tell that she didn’t really realize the impact of what she was saying to those around her. She was talking about her first tattoo when she was 12 and how the ink had faded. Then she offhandedly mentioned that she could totally beat people up (using much more colorful language than I care to repeat). She mentioned a pregnant friend that she “smacked around” but now they are “cool.” Of course she said it in a way that seemed normative for her and I kept thinking how tiring it must be to have to constantly try to prove yourself using your words.  What must it be like to go through life without a filter?

And then this morning I heard a very convicting sermon about the power of words.  I realized that I wasn’t too different from the coach or the girl on the train. My words constantly come out of my mouth too quickly and I don’t often pause to take stock of what I’m saying. I just talk because that’s who I am.  Sometimes it works, but other times I’m left apologizing.

On a good day, my words can build people up and bring people together like my last blog post about my grandma.  Today I found out that my words had really impacted my mom. My words in that situation had made her so grateful that I would even think to write something that resembled a tribute to my Grandma. That was a good feeling.

Other times, my words have caused division. I’ve gossiped. I’ve tried too hard. I’ve hurt Mark’s feelings. I’ve really just blown it. So I do my best to apologize and ask for forgiveness. What I’ve realized is how much of a battle this actually is for me. I’m not sure if I’m alone in this, but sometimes taming my tongue is virtually impossible. I have so many thoughts throughout the day that I can’t say that I just burst at the seams when I’m around friends and family.  So I tried something.

The sermon convicted me that I can’t just overcome my word issues on my own. I have to take it to God and ask for help. I prayed this morning and I honestly think it’s made a huge difference. I’m more aware of what I say to everyone from the auditors in our office to the people who call in for my boss to my bosses and more. And I’ve started to notice their words. I want it to be said that I’m an encourager, not a “Negative Nelly.” I want my words to bring light and love and life, not death. Not discouragement. Not anger or frustration. Not anxiety or hopelessness.

I come back to this a lot but it’s important. Are my words really reflecting who I am on the inside or are they just echoing a part of myself that is dissatisfied, grumpy, and wanting to bring others down? If that’s the case, I need to stop, take a breath, and pray.

It’s okay to pause between words. It’s okay to not answer right away. It’s okay to not spread my opinion to everyone or blurt out something that makes someone I am close to hurt or distrust me.

Proverbs 12:18 says “There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”

I hope to not thrust swords, but bring healing and life. With God’s help and grace, I pray that it is so!

What about you and your words? Do you struggle with the right words to say?

%d bloggers like this: