Tag Archives: God

A Non-Trivial Update on My Pursuits

15 Jan

I’m checking in after a half a month of adopting my word for 2014, “pursue.” I think it’s important to assess once in awhile. How am I doing with pursuing things? In no particular order, I’ll evaluate.

 

PURSUE friendships- It’s been rough going back to LA to see my friends. While it’s great at the time and it’s so easy, I’m finding that going home again is never the same…I think they say that because eventually, you have to leave. The reality is Los Angeles is not my home anymore. I’m painfully aware of this every time I see great job postings for LA and I ask if I can telecommute. So far, the answer has been no.

 

Biking at Hermosa BeachPursuing friendship means determining how to stay in touch with my old friends and investing in them even though it’s hard sometimes. I know that part of the grieving process means that at times I’ll feel angry, upset, and annoyed at the way things are. That manifested itself last Sunday after I returned from a small birthday party on Friday night and a fantastic beach day at Hermosa on Saturday with many of my good friends.

 

Pursuing also means seeking out new friends. I’m asking old friends to connect me with people they know here. It’s almost like being set up on an awkward blind date, at times, but I continually am trying to reach out. I’m realizing that unlike me at the moment, most people are busy. Even in San Diego. So, I’ll keep reaching out. Asking questions. Engaging with others. It’s definitely better than it was. And this way I’ll get to know ALL of the coffee shops around, not just Starbucks. 🙂

 

Pursuing Marriage

Pursuing Marriage: Photo by Daniel Schwartzkopf

PURSUE God- Mark and I have finally decided to join a small group together! I’ve never been in a co-ed small group, but I thought it was important for us to join one so that we would be intentional about our spirituality together. Pursuing God means pursuing a good marriage, too, so it being me, I’ve been reading a lot of books on marriage and trying to incorporate prayer into our daily routine. I’ve also been reading a lot of people’s blogs and I think we’ll start a couple’s devotional together on a weekly basis so that we can be on the same page.

 

Pursuing God is tough when you are going to a new church. Things seem unfamilar at times and we haven’t completely settled on a church forever, but we’re trying things out, going regularly, and meeting new people there to see if it’s the place where God is calling us. After that, we’ll pursue serving there in some capacity.

 

PURSUE writing. I joined a group called 500 Words put on by Jeff Goins. I’m writing 500 words a day for the month of January in hopes of developing a regular writing habit. So far, doing it in the morning seems tough, so I usually squeeze it in at the end of the day. I think I’m doing that because writing seems scary to me. I hope for the next few weeks to make writing be a top priority.

 

PURSUE employment. Prayers are starting to be answered as I see a lot of possibilities on the horizon that weren’t there a few weeks ago. I’m hopeful and have been meeting a lot of new people due to friends connecting me with others they know. I’m hoping to be gainfully employed on a full time basis very soon! Meanwhile, I’m trying to trust God with the details of our finances.

 

I could go into more, but it’s time to hang out with Mark and PURSUE a good marriage. 🙂

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Grappling With Grief In Light Of The Tragedy In Aurora

20 Jul

As I open Facebook, I see pictures of middle school and college friends sharing first days with their newborns, and otheres bringing back their babies from the hospital. I see new marriages being celebrated. Engagements, happy moments.  Just hours ago, I congratulated them all, thanking God for being so miraculous and amazing. I am laughing at how, one friend I’d met the first day I moved into my dorm, once seriously and chronically addicted to a game we coined “The Bean Game,” could now be in charge of a human life. Oh, how God loves us…

I’m seeing my boyfriend tonight for the first time in a week. I look forward to these reunions, life is good. I’m thankful…

It’s Friday. My favorite day of the week. We get free bagels and donuts and the only thought in my mind is how I’m going to secure an Old Fashioned donut for one of my bosses who gets bummed if they run out before he gets there. I’d better hurry…

I’m wondering when and how my friends are going to coordinate our schedules in order to see “The Dark Knight Rises” in IMAX…

I’m in the elevator going up from the mail room where I grabbed my other boss’s Wall Street Journal. I don’t read the headlines.  And that’s when I get a text…

“Did you hear about Colorado?”

“Not really. Something about a shooting but no details.” I reply, sadly blaze.  I listened to podcasts, don’t have a TV, and hadn’t checked Google News yet.

And then it all changes. I go the news for the first time. Aurora, Colorado. 12 dead. 58 injured. Midnight showing of “The Dark Knight Rises.” Wait, what? Aurora? Colorado? Aurora Mall?! THE Aurora Mall?

I was born in Aurora, Colorado. I lived there for 8 years. It’s likely I went to the Aurora Mall every week of my life or close to it until we moved to Chicago when I was in the third grade. It’s a pretty normal suburban town.  I have fond, idyllic memories of Aurora, Colorado. I swallow. Tears welling, throat closing.

This time, it feels closer to home because it IS my home.

I look at the Twitter feed, find old friends who lived in Colorado to see their FB statuses. I start crying at my desk. Too close to home.  They were just going to see a movie. They thought it was special effects. I don’t think I know anyone personally, but still. It’s my hometown.

And then suddenly I don’t understand. It doesn’t make sense. I have questions. God, where are you in this? Will we ever know? Why is this world so broken? How is this happening?  The same God who allows people to come into this world…how could He allow people to leave it when they just wanted to go to the movies with their friends and families? Is that the wrong question?  Why would someone murder people in cold blood at the movies? What do I do with my questions? Why is this happening again?

As I’m thinking of this, moments from February come rushing back when a 15 year old freshman decided to jump off his high school’s roof in the town where I worked at the high school where one of my good friends teach and where kids from my church attend.  A high school, which I was at for a career fair just days after the tragedy.  A high school were this kind of thing doesn’t happen. But maybe I should stop saying that, because it does. And it is. More and more.

Then come moments from September 11th when my boyfriend at the time lived 4 blocks from the World Trade Center and I couldn’t contact him for a few hours.  For days after we were all trying to make sense of it. Why? How? Who would do such a thing? This is America. How is it things like this keep happening?

I realize bad things happen. They have since the beginning of time when there was sin. We live in a fallen world. But that doesn’t console me today when I read about a young woman who was studying to be a broadcast journalist who just wanted to go to the movies.

It doesn’t help me when I see pictures of people standing outside of my brother’s high school, wondering where their missing kids are.

People will blame. People will grasp. And at the end of the day, all I can do is keep asking my questions and keep hoping beyond hope that the God of this universe will console. He is bigger than this and he sees outside of time. He will meet us in our need. He will protect and love us and be the place we go when we have questions, when we have grief. When we wonder what is happening in this world.

I settle upon Psalm 34:

I will extol the Lord at all times;
his praise will always be on my lips.
I will glory in the Lord;
let the afflicted hear and rejoice.
Glorify the Lord with me;
let us exalt his name together.

I sought the Lord, and he answered me;
he delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant;
their faces are never covered with shame.
This poor man called, and the Lord heard him;
he saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him,
and he delivers them.

Taste and see that the Lord is good;
blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.
Fear the Lord, you his holy people,
for those who fear him lack nothing.
10 The lions may grow weak and hungry,
but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.
11 Come, my children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
12 Whoever of you loves life
and desires to see many good days,
13 keep your tongue from evil
and your lips from telling lies.
14 Turn from evil and do good;
seek peace and pursue it.

15 The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
and his ears are attentive to their cry;
16 but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil,
to blot out their name from the earth.

17 The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them;
he delivers them from all their troubles.
18 The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

19 The righteous person may have many troubles,
but the Lord delivers him from them all;
20 he protects all his bones,
not one of them will be broken.

21 Evil will slay the wicked;
the foes of the righteous will be condemned.
22 The Lord will rescue his servants;
no one who takes refuge in him will be condemned.

And there it is.

I don’t pretend to understand. I just want to hope.

I just want to hug my family and friends.

I just want to remember Aurora the way it was.

And I just want people to be able to go to the movies without worrying that their lives will become one.

 

Guess What Happened When I Didn’t Eat For Three Days…

1 May

Sunset near the beach I was at during the fast

I fasted for three days before Easter. No food, just water. I’ve never done anything like that before and while some might think it to be crazy, I did it in solidarity with my church after our pastor invited us to participate. It wasn’t a competition, although I was surprised that so many people I talked to felt like they had failed when they had to break the fast because of medical reasons. Fasting should always be in order to get closer to God, and it did just that for me. When you don’t eat for three days, every time a meal comes around or even when it doesn’t and you think about your stomach, you have no choice but to think about God and realize we are not promised much in this life and yet we seem to have ample amounts of food.

Being that it was holy week, I thought about the sacrifice that Jesus made for me more than once. I can’t believe he was able to do forgo food for forty days and be tempted! I at least was able to avoid food places and keep my refrigerator full of unappetizing things, but to have bread dangled in front of me or all the power in the world offered to me so that I could change my circumstances would most definitely have been too much. By the end of day 2, I couldn’t get Chic Fil A out of my mind! I had been a strict plant based eater for two months before the fast and suddenly, all I wanted was chicken. My roommate and I even hatched a plan to get it the day after we broke the fast, which happened to be her birthday. (We ended up first going to the one in Hollywood but some half marathon prevented us from even getting close and although it was way out of our way, we ended up at the USC Chic Fil A savoring our chicken sandwiches.) Needless to say, I got a little sick after that and decided that was NOT a good idea. Note to self and to the rest of you: break your fast slowly and if you’re going to Chic Fil A the day after breaking it, be sure to not get the biscuit sandwich AND the chicken nuggets. Your eyes are bigger than your stomach.

Throughout the fast, I did something I hadn’t done before. I prayed three times a day. Some call it “praying the hours” and it comes from a tradition where you can connect to God during meal times (there’s a lot more to this. Google it if you want more info). Prayers mean more when you realize how reliant on God you actually are. I started to see God as a provider and I was so incredibly thankful. My words came alive. I meant them and my hunger made me focus on each one in a deeper way. Sometimes I’ve heard about fasting that your hunger is deeper than just a surface level. That was true of me. I realized how much I needed to hear from God on so many issues in my life. I wanted clarity on career decisions and movements. I needed help seeing myself realistically as loved and forgiven. I wanted to give him my regrets and shortcomings.

In this sweet time of communing with my God, I learned to get out of the way.

Because I was more tired than usual, I couldn’t keep up the break neck pace that I so often set for myself. I was forced to slow down. In a year when the word I’ve chosen is “Aware”, nothing made me more aware of God and of myself than not being able to eat for three days. Suddenly everything became more focused. While I would think about what I was going to eat at the end, I was also forced to think about that moment and how I wasn’t quite where I wanted to be yet. And in that, I let go. I had to. Otherwise the food cravings would have driven me crazy. Day 2 I was ready to give up. Day three though, I felt fantastic. I had some mysterious energy that drew me forth. I wasn’t needing food or anything tangible to make me happy, I was just happy because I could be. It was definitely a new freedom that I really enjoyed.

My favorite moments from the fast were on Good Friday. We had an awesome service at church and many came to be together in community to experience the evening together. We took communion around a large table. Everyone when up individually and had their own sacred moments kneeling in front of the bread and juice. I found my eyes welling up with tears from the beauty of it. Oh how desperately we needed God then. Sometimes we pretend we don’t.

The fast taught me that I’m actually not in control of much in this world. My attitude, yes. My blessings, no. Those are all from God. Every morsel of food I buy. My car when it works and when it doesn’t. My friendships. My singleness or the relationship I have. My family. My money. All the dreams I have for my life. All the ones that didn’t come to pass for one reason or another. It all belongs to God. Taking those few days to pause and remember that changed my rhythm.

Suddenly I find myself reaching out to new people I wouldn’t have met before because encounters don’t feel like chance anymore. I’m more grateful for each day. While I don’t want to waste time, I also have learned to enjoy little moments a bit more than I had previously. I’ve encountered “slow” and I’m not as afraid.

I’m sure the fast’s purpose will continue to become evident to me as time goes on. And I might even try to do a fast once a month for a day just to remember all the lessons I took away and to connect again in those special moments with a God who loves me for all that I am. I know in a deeper way that just to be created and to enjoy that creation is enough. And it’s from that place I want to live my life.

Tootsie Pops, Waiting, The Real Story of the Cement Truck, and A Return from Tanzania

17 Dec

I don’t do New Years resolutions. For recovering perfectionists like myself, resolutions turn into “should haves” and “should haves” turn to guilt which soon becomes regret. So I don’t do that. Instead, every year, for the past three years, I’ve picked a word that will define that new year for me. Just one word. This year’s is JOY. And if you’re a regular reader, you know what I’ve learned about joy over the past 12 months.

However, instead of pondering about it too much, my word for 2012 came early.

The Roddys before the retreat

It was November. The culmination of a lot of things for me. I go on an annual young adult retreat every year at this time. I have a birthday, usually an occasion in and of itself. Thanksgiving happens. And this year two great friends, Liz and Shannon Roddy, came back after being gone for a year and a half in Tanzania, Africa serving at Wild Hope International. Oh how I had waited for them. In the midst of life I would often say aloud and yet rhetorically, “Liz and Shannon should be here, don’t you think?” At first it was a sad addition to whatever memorable moment my friends and I were having at the time. Then it became a joke to those who know me well. Before I could even say it, my roommate would see the sad look on my face as my forehead wrinkled, my head turned down, and my eyes filled slightly with tears and she would ask, “What, I’m not good enough? Just kidding. I know. Liz and Shannon should be here.”

But they weren’t. For a year and a half (despite the fact that they were doing amazingly awesome things and growing a ton), they missed birthdays, Christmases, milestones.  My breakup, my roommate’s new promotion to pastoral staff, that time I took a missions trip to the Czech republic, births of babies, deaths of people within our church, small moments, big moments. There’s only so much you can relay over Skype. They missed a lot. And I missed them. Waiting, waiting for their arrival back into my life.

When I saw their faces for the first time, I remembered what it was like to have complete  joy return. I hugged them and jumped up and down, probably waking up all of my sleeping neighbors as we lugged their bags into my apartment. Finally. They. Were. Here. And they were in the same room as me, breathing the same air, cracking jokes and able to engage with us without the screen freezing or the power going out. We laughed. We realized how much we had changed. And how much we were still the same.

I found in the time that they were visiting us that I wanted everything to go faster. Maybe it was a hold over from the year and a half of waiting. I wanted to catch them up on everything, hear their stories, and live the life that had been missed by all of us for the past 18 months.

This urgency culminated on our way to the young adult retreat. I was so used to waiting that I didn’t want to wait anymore. I wanted us to BE there. So when our car got stuck behind a cement truck going 20 MPH on a mountain road, I got irate.

The rest of the car thought I was crazy with impatience. I kept yelling at the truck to move over.  He wouldn’t move. Every turn was torture. Every place he could pull over, he refused. Finally, what seemed like hours later, the truck slowly found its way to the shoulder. (My roommate swears it was only 30 seconds that we were stuck behind the truck). After my irrational behavior, everyone else in the car was convinced I needed to settle down. But I didn’t.

I kept being impatient.

And suddenly like that, the Roddys were gone again. The card games, the night at the Lawry’s Steak House with Liz, the pool sharking she and I had done at the retreat, the spiritual conversations. It all went by in a flash.

We're such pool sharks! We were on a roll!

Even in this season of advent. I’m ready for New Year’s. I want to skip through Christmas because I don’t feel like it’s Christmas. I want to get to the good part of the story, the chocolate dipped cone at the bottom of the ice cream drumstick, the Tootsie Roll in the center of the Tootsie Pop.

It’s in the quiet moments I realize that I need to wait. For what, I don’t know. Maybe a whisper. Maybe an answer? Maybe just silence. Yet there is something pushing me forward. I don’t know what it is. I don’t want to miss this chance to wait, though. I know in my heart the greatest gift the world has ever seen is coming soon. And in my impatience, I may miss Him. And that would be a great tragedy.

As I was contemplating waiting this past week, I heard this in a poem by Issac Wimberly in spoken word form that makes me want to be a better wait-er.

This groaning was growing, generation after generationKnowing He was holy, no matter what the situationBut they longed for HimThey yearned for HimThey waited for Him on the edge of their seatOn the edge of where excitement and containment meetThey waitedLike a child watches out the window for their father to return from work—they waitedLike a groom stares at the double doors at the back of the church—they waited

And in their waiting, they had hope

Hope that was fully pledged to a God they had not seen

To a God who had promised a King

A King who would reign over the enemy

Over Satan’s tyranny

They waited

Wow. People waited YEARS for Jesus. 400 years. And I get all upset about a cement truck and a year and a half without my friends. Despite all my wanting the best for people, I can still get upset about still being single while others are getting engagement rings and sonograms. Perspective shift, much after hearing this poem/spoken word? Yeah. Definitely. I can wait. And in the moments I can’t, I will learn. I will hope that despite the fact that things don’t work out exactly the way I planned that there still is a plan. And in that hope I can believe that the lyrics to the song I heard recently by Jesus Culture are true. “I have a plan for you/ It’s gonna be wild/It’s gonna be great/It’s gonna be full of Me.”

So because of this, this next year will be the year that I will learn to wait. Patience: my word for 2012.

How Harry Potter Helped Me Get Over My Past

22 Jun

My living room

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I’ve been reading it. I admit it. Guilty pleasure since I was 19 years old, on summer break in college and just had to go out and buy the fourth book at 2AM from the Super K-Mart two towns away. I haven’t been AS obsessed since those days but recently, I decided I wanted to get ready for the seventh and final movie. Thus, I picked up the book and three days later I had finished it after reading on lunch breaks and after work. It became a short-lived escape but in the midst of my mental vacation, I made a connection that changed the way I thought about my own life.

First, a brief-watered-down-background-without-spoilers: Harry Potter spends the better part of the book trying to destroy parts of Voldermort’s (the evil wizard’s) soul. These fragments of the soul are imparted onto objects, animals, and sometimes people and they are called horcruxes. At the very apex of the book, Harry must fully come to terms with the soul connection that he shares with Voldermort. This connection is a result of something that happened long ago in Harry’s life when he was a baby. Little does Harry realize the depth of the connection that he has with Voldemort but in order to move on with his life, Harry has to cut the tie that they share.

My epiphany came because of another life-changing book that I’ve been reading simultaneously, “Sex and the Soul of A Woman,” by Paula Rinehart. Rinehart, a counselor who has worked with thousands of women (and men) over several decades, describes what a soul tie is and how we can give ourselves to another person (whether that be a family member, friend, or romantic interest) and make an unhealthy tie to them when we cross physical, spiritual, or emotional boundaries. The result is disastrous and unless, with God’s help, we break the soul ties we have to these people, we will never fully be able to move on with our lives.

As I am in a season of trusting God and discovering the joy He has for me, I felt convicted that letting go of more soul ties was in order for me to connect in a deeper way with him. While walking through this painful but cleansing process of cutting soul ties with former boyfriends and friends with whom I’ve had unhealthy relationships, I found myself thinking about Harry Potter and his relationship with Voldemort. As I researched what a horcrux was in JK Rowling’s world, here’s what I discovered (after reading Wikipedia): “There is no limit to the number of Horcruxes a wizard can create. However, as the creator’s soul is divided into progressively smaller portions, he loses more of his natural humanity and his soul becomes increasingly unstable. Under very specific conditions, a soul fragment can be sealed within an object without the intention or knowledge of the creator.”

Yep, sounds exactly like a soul tie except without the wizarding lingo. There is no limit to the number of people we can connect with when we are craving love, respect, admiration, and for someone to know us in an intimate way. That craving to be known leads us to what Rob Bell in his book, “Sex God”, calls “the search for the unconditional embrace.” Sadly, I know this because I’ve done it myself for years without realizing it. I don’t think it’s a bad thing to want someone to know you, love you, and connect with you in an intimate way. I think that desire is God-given. But when it happens too fast, out of context, before the time is right, and a person becomes an idol put on a pedestal, it can quickly become an unhealthy soul tie. And the more soul ties I’ve made in my life, the more my soul, like the soul of Voldemort (which he separated  into eight pieces), became unstable. The good news is that for me, (and for Harry who has a soul tie to Voldy in Book 7), there is hope. Soul ties can be broken. And when they are, that can lead to freedom. I have a post-it on my mirror that has a verse on it: “It is for FREEDOM that Christ has set you free so stand and do not be burdened again by the yoke of slavery.”

Dancing in the rain when I was 19- A moment of freedom

I want to trust God in the areas where I need to heal. I slowly, sometimes with trepidation, let God into those places in my heart that I have long since determined would be shut forever. When I do, it’s scary, but it’s also good because in those moments when I do, part of my soul is restored and I taste the sweetness of freedom. I can’t tell you how Harry handles his soul tie, you’ll have to wait and see on July 17. But as for me, I choose freedom. Since making that choice to break the soul ties, I’m different. I don’t feel as bound to my past. I am able to let go. It’s still a journey I am on and it’s not easy. But then again, Harry’s journey wasn’t exactly a cake walk either…

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