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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There are hermit souls that live withdrawn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
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2012 in review

2 Jan

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 5,500 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 9 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

I Will Remember

18 Dec

It’s a week before Christmas. The only decoration we have out is a Christmas card from a friend that says “Ho Ho Ho.” This is embarrassing because I have a closet full of Christmas decor. It doesn’t feel like that time of year to me because I’ve been in a blur for many months.

2012 has had its hard moments as well as those that were life changing. What I’m starting to realize is whether good or bad, if we don’t stop to pay attention to these moments and really grieve losses, celebrate the wins, and mark it, time will begin to bleed together and suddenly a week before Christmas in a year full of huge storms (both literally and figuratively), new jobs, parents moving, grandmas dying, new dating relationships, disconnection, learning to lead in a different context, not being heard or understood, standing tall, sitting down, letting go, and reaching out– that it will all start to feel the same.

I’m afraid of not remembering things. I’m afraid of not living in the moment enough because I’m too worried about the past or the future. I’m scared of “just getting by” or becoming a “weekend warrior” where all my living is done in the 48 hours between Friday night and Monday morning. But I see that happening sometimes.

So I’ll try to remember. The simple. The good. The shocking. That which needs to be remembered.

I remember a boat trip with good friends where we sang and I got to drive for a moment. We celebrated.

I remember the San Diego Zoo and a talk on the bench where I was honest and frank and let a little bit of my heart out to a guy who soon became my boyfriend.

I remember 15 pairs of legs dipped into the hot tub at my parents’ house during the farewell party we had there before they moved to Phoenix.

I remember a toast in the living room to failure and trying to risk.

I remember coming into my bedroom, seeing it fully decorated, and finally feeling like I was home.

I remember three little kids trying to paint and color a banner for their mom on Mother’s Day to surprise her.

I remember a final lunch at a Mexican restaurant celebrating years of good work at the Community Center.

I remember standing in a parking lot completely surprised realizing I would get to go to Disneyland for an entire year.

I remember staring at the screen with disbelief when my friend raised $12,000 in a month in order to complete her first jazz album.

I remember dancing with mariachis and friends to celebrate my new job.

I remember catching the softball and making that out to seal our victory.

I remember crying at my desk when I found out that my hometown, Aurora, CO would never be the same.

I remember running amok a the Glendale Americana with my friend and her four kids and husband as we all played “Duck Duck Goose” on the lawn.

I remember the taste of my first really good homemade plant-based meal.

I remember looking at my friend on her wedding day as she was about to walk down the aisle and thanking God that she had made it to this day.

I remember swimming in my parents pool in Phoenix at 10PM when it was still 90 degrees out and laughing.

I remember turning our apartment into a beach volleyball pit for my roommate’s birthday because the bonfire we had planned wasn’t going to work out due to rain.

I remember laughing to the point of tears with the freshman girls at the high school retreat and feeling like we were understanding one another.

I remember hiking down part of the Grand Canyon with friends new and old, talking about life, and watching several amazing sunsets.

I remember writing a tribute to my Grandma after I realized she’d died and missing her because she knew me in a deep and beautiful way that is rare.

I remember my car breaking down (again) in the middle of a rainy parking lot right before scarfing down a Little Caesars Hot N Ready pizza minutes before a free screening of “Anna Karinina.”

I remember rushing a lot and worrying too much.

I remember dreading work because I’d rather be living life out loud than stuck in a cubicle or in an office dealing with people overly entitled.

I remember what it felt like to break a three-day fast with a piece of watermelon, knowing I have never felt that close to God.

I remember how alive I felt when I was juicing every day, fully aware of everything I was putting into my body.

I remember watching fireworks with kids who really appreciated them.

I remember catching the bouquet at a wedding full of strangers.

I remember the clammy, scary feeling the moment after reading something I’ve written aloud, before anyone claps.

I remember hoping, wishing, and dreaming.

So maybe this remembering helps. Things don’t seem like such a blur. But lately I’ve been forgetting everything little, like how to sign my name or to drink enough water so I don’t get dizzy throughout the day. I want to stop and sit still. Just so I won’t forget to remember.

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.

It’s Not About The Pants!

25 Oct

I got the opportunity to guest blog for “A Beautiful Mess” awhile back. Many of you read it, but I thought I would post a link here in case you missed it! Thanks for reading!

Read it HERE!

He Does Not Complete Me…Nor Should He OR The Unfortunate Role Of The Golden Calf In A Dating Relationship

15 Aug

Couple-dom looks great and it IS! I just don’t want to make this guy my end all be all and he doesn’t want to make me his either!

If I’ve learned one thing about dating it is this: there are no guarantees. I’m not trying to say this to sound cynical, it’s just I’ve seen many friends (myself included) start out in seemingly amazing relationships only to sit with them months later as they try to process what went wrong after it’s ended.  Just because something starts out good (what new relationships don’t),  doesn’t mean it’s going to be a good fit and that it’s going to end in couple-dom, marriage, kids, and (insert your dream here). And yet it’s easy for us to hope, dream, and do about anything to make dead-end relationships work.

Once upon a time in the not so distant past, I was the desperate girl trying to get a guy to love me. Maybe it was my own personal need for validation. Perhaps I wasn’t able to fully see what I was worth.  Chalk it up to insecurity, neediness, wanting so badly to be in a successful relationship that I would gloss over major problems. Maybe I was sick of waiting on God for a good fit that I just tried to trailblaze my own path…again and again…and yes, again.

Consistently, I would find myself in a position of dropping everything, developing new hobbies just because of a guy, forgetting about friends, putting my dreams on hold and trying to cobble together mine with his…basically changing my whole life so that it revolved around him all in hopes that I would obtain the secure and unchangeable fact that he wanted me and only me.  Despite my greatest attempts, this did not work. Why?

Why doesn’t it work when you throw yourself at someone and do everything he/she wants, just for the sake of validation? Why doesn’t  it work to just let yourself fall head over heels in love and stay there permanently?

It doesn’t work because that’s not the way that it’s supposed to be.  Certainly it’s not all bad.  Love is amazing. And relationships do take compromise, time, and energy. They aren’t just easy street. The problem comes when a relationship turn into idolatry.

Human relationships aren’t supposed to complete us because they can’t.  The operative word here is human.

We are messy and flawed.

We disappoint. We fail. Only one relationship can ever complete us.

Yep, been there, done this. Maybe it wasn’t a golden calf but still…

Only one god is meant to be worshiped by us and he’s not our boyfriend/girlfriend.

A few years ago, I heard a great sermon series about counterfeit gods.   No matter how we go through life, we follow something. We may not realize it, but we’re constantly putting something on an altar and worshiping it.  It may not be a golden calf  but maybe takes the shape of entertainment or technology. Food or beauty. Money. Fame.  Politics. Fitting in with our friends. Our favorite sports team. And sometimes it’s actually another person.  I know because I’ve done it.

I’ve stayed in relationships too long wanting the other person to fix me. I’ve hoped they would love me for me. I’ve stayed because I wrongly gave them parts of my heart and soul that didn’t belong to them and I felt that the knowledge they had of me would surely translate into a long-term love.  I’ve begged, sold my values down the river, traded “wait” for NOW, and so many other things.

I learned the hard way. But the point is, I’ve learned.

If we’re dating, we need to ask the hard questions. Am I worshiping this person or perhaps the idea of them? Am I being realistic? Am I staying in this relationship for the wrong reasons? What expectations do I have of this person and are they fair?

It’s hard to answer these questions without taking a sober look at our lives and patterns. When we do admit that yes, we may be putting this person or what they do for us on a pedestal, then what? How do we change? Is this salvageable? While it depends on the situation, I think there are some things we can do to help in the event that our significant others become idols to us.

1) Get a life! Seriously. When I have other plans with other friends,  a softball game to go to, work outs scheduled, or family commitments, this helps me realize the guy I’m dating is not the center of my world. In turn, he can actually miss me when I’m not around and I can stay true to things that were important to me before he came into the picture. If you don’t have hobbies outside of your relationship, really think about something you’ve always wanted to do and go try it! Can’t hurt and it may even make you seem even more interesting to the person you’re dating. Keeping your life while you pursue a relationship is only logical. The person you’re dating didn’t fall for a robot who follows them around, they fell for YOU. The you who has a fulfilling, great life in addition to them.

This is a trip I took with my friends. Sans boyfriend. When I came back from the trip, we really missed each other. Still glad I went though!

2) Keep Accountable.  I try to talk to my girlfriends, mentors, and wise family members who know me about my problem of making the guys I date into idols. I’m not perfect, but I’ve grown a lot. They will tell it to me straight if I’m spending too much time on the guy I’m dating. Plus, my boyfriend understands that I need my own time for me. I actually don’t want to make him the center of my life because that would be really boring. By not knowing everything he’s doing/thinking /feeling every day all day, it actually gives us something to talk about when we do get together.  And I give him time to process our relationship on his own, which almost always benefits me.

3)   Spend some time alone (preferably outside in a pretty place). I’ve found that these times of solitude and prayer were invaluable to me. When you can become aware of who you are in your relationship and actually have time to think about your behavior and how it’s working for you, you may realize some unhealthy patterns that have developed. Being silent and still as well as learning to journal out my feelings has almost always left me more invigorated and better able to communicate with God about these feelings and tackle my issues head on.  Also, there’s something about being alone in nature that makes me realize how small I am and how big God is.

4)  Be committed to growth. For example: If you start working with a charity or people group you’re passionate about, your world will grow.  Suddenly it won’t be about you and your relationship, it will be about serving others around you, seeing outside of yourself, and you may even realize how much you need God in the midst of that.  A few years ago, I ended a relationship just as I was growing very passionate about abolishing modern-day slavery. Putting my energy into that passion helped me realize that I had outgrown my relationship and it made me less afraid to end it knowing that there was more left in the world to do if the relationship didn’t work out.  It was one of the better realizations I could have had at that time in my life.

There’s no easy fix to this issue. My guess is, we battle some form of idolatry our entire lives. We are constantly asked to choose and we have a myriad of choices. How do we keep putting God in his rightful place whilst also pursuing relationships and dating? It’s not easy. I’ve only grazed the surface of this one. I’d love to hear your comments if you’d so choose to share. What’s worked for you? What hasn’t? Leave a comment below.

How Jury Duty Landed Me What Could Possibly Be My Dream Job Or Joy In The Midst Of Trial By Jury

4 May

I’ve often said that God has a funny sense of humor, especially when it comes to the events that play out in my life. For months I’ve gotten very close to some promising job opportunities, almost every time to have the door shut in my face. I’ve been on a quest to try to discover what it is that I’m supposed to do with my talents, gifts, and passions. Meanwhile, I’ve plugged away at work, trying the best that I can with the knowledge that I’m underemployed and could do so much more. So instead, I poured myself into my second job and out into volunteer activities – life group leading, counseling friends on relationships, and, sometimes reluctantly letting God test me in the areas of patience, joy, and trust. Throughout this time, I’ve been through some very hard seasons of growth. I’ve learned to let go of relationships that I had to realize weren’t working the way I’d hoped. I’ve had the rug ripped out from underneath me just when things were starting to get good. I’ve learned what sacrificial love looks like in my life (re-read blogs if you don’t believe me). I’ve learned how to date in Christian community, take risks, love when it hurts, and want the best for the people I’ve dated. And I’ve tried to be a voice in my community when it comes to loving people well, to date, and to breakup well (if it comes to that). It’s been quite a journey and I’m so thankful for those of you who have been on it with me.

But, despite all of these facts, I NEVER in a million years thought when I walked down to Courtroom O to report for jury duty on a civil trial that I would also be walking into my next job. How could I know that less than a month later I would say yes to working for a company that specializes in online dating and wants to specifically grow one of their websites aimed at Christians? Who could have guessed?! But God knew.

I met my Jury Duty Friend (who shall remain nameless for the time being because I haven’t asked her permission to be a part of my blog) the first day. Funnily enough, we got on the topic of online dating. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I had decided to join one of her parent company’s websites merely weeks before for trial (mostly because I realized I hadn’t been following my own advice that I’ve written about being actively available and taking the risk). We talked about that and joked that my one month membership was almost up. I joked about giving her my resume because she said she might know of a position opening up at her company… Little did I know that this conversation would bring me to accepting a job that not only will allow me to have a free membership to her website but will give me crazy opportunity to be influential in the realm of Christian dating and offers me so much beyond all that I would even dream for a job in terms of benefits, time off, perks, and bonus structures.

Now let’s get this straight. I’ve been vacuuming up pee water (the worst aspect of my current job). Now I will be assisting top executives and hopefully have a chance to write some of the ideas I’ve shared here to the Christian subculture at large. Who could have guessed? I’ll tell you who. God.

He knows me so intimately. What I need. What I want. Where I find my joy. Where I don’t. I’m not saying this job is going to be the end all be all, but when your book about sacrificial love and community has been on the back burner, when your blogging about the same topic has slowed, it’s nice to have the mission reinforced by getting a job where you will be paid to think about these things and to interact with people on the forefront of these issues. It’s nice to be reaffirmed. There’s so much more to say about this journey I’ve been on. I’ve been trying to discern where God wants me, agonizing over whether I should take another competing job using other passions of mine, and then watching the deal for this job just keep getting sweeter and sweeter. To have a great company want you is a glorious thing. When not vacuuming pee water, I’ve loved my time at my current job. In some moments, I’ve felt trapped in a web of my own making.

So here I go. On to hopefully give my ideas, share my wisdom, and love a whole new group of people. Who could have planned that? A God who knows me, loves me, hears me when I call, and makes the path of life known to me. I am so thankful. Here’s to new journeys, new growth, and to jury duty, a seemingly boring universally known-to-be horrible situation which most people complain about openly even though it is our civic duty and really, privilege , which I actually loved, and which completely changed my life. 🙂

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