lessons in intervals

My mom doesn’t have time to write emails.

She juggles four schedules, a full-time job with teenagers, foster mom shenanigans, and now post-lymes disease syndrome is in the mix. She doesn’t really have time to read my blog or call me on the phone or listen to my heartsickness because she has a world that refuses to fit inside each day’s minutes.

I was standing on the subway platform waiting for the J train at the Crescent stop last week and the tracks made a very squeaky interval that sounded like West Side Story. It sounded like, “There’s a place for us…” and the phrase started accompanying the train’s song.

It took me back to all those nights with my mom in the piano room where we would practice listening for the “NBC” interval, the “happy birthday” interval and all those other intervals. She would play one and we would guess a fourth or fifth or seventh. I’m not sure why she had time to teach us things like that or how she had time to make them fun. We weren’t paying her for piano lessons and it wasn’t the easiest activity to undertake with five hooligans in a constant game of chase around the house.

But, I remember sitting there and sometimes rolling my eyes through my lesson. I remember her exasperation and her persistence. I remember thinking that she wanted me to learn intervals more than I wanted me to learn intervals.

“There’s a place for us…”

It’s like playing word association with melodies – like hearing fragments of stories sliding around on the breeze. And, anyway, hearing that interval from West Side Story was like comfort food. I was the only one standing there, looking at the sun going down and trying not to sigh into the New York commuter face. And I tasted the comfort in those notes – notes that took me back to the nights I learned intervals sitting next to my mom on that old, dented piano bench.

Yep, I thought. There is a place for me here, a place for us.

I got an email the other day from my mom.

Did you know that the color of the tree leaves in the fall is actually the ABSENCE of chlorophyll (which is required for photosynthesis)??

So let’s get this straight.  The leaves are more beautiful in color when they are empty of the thing that makes them green.  Hm..

Am I more beautiful when I’m empty?  Is this what 2 Cor 12:9 means?

 “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.”

Leaves get empty and what is left behind are cold fireworks that float to the earth in friendly piles. Leaves get empty of what makes them alive and that is when leaves get beautiful.

Why did God make even death and absence beautiful? Why did He get so creative with the season that ushers in winter?

I imagine he could have done many other productive things, tended to many other beautiful endeavors. Why think to drain the leaves of life and replace them with cold, colorful flames?

Because even (and especially) in this detail God is loving us. He is gently and divinely displaying His glory. He is drawing us into wonder, into whimsy and wide eyes. He is painting his beauty in the emptiness of creation and (maybe) revealing that He can transform something dead.

It was an email like interval lessons and my mom doesn’t have time for any of it. She is weak, like all of us, and today I’m glad for the lesson on power in weakness because we both need it. She is probably taking a lymes-induced nap before powering through Sabbath evening while I warm by afternoon window sunlight and think about the beauty of emptiness.

The first part of the Sabbath felt smooshed and time empty. It felt a little restless and run hungry. I needed to hear that familiar interval – the sound of Scripture reminding me that I shouldn’t ever fight to be full. I needed to remember that God considers His creation a worthy investment – a fitting canvas to display His glory in nonsensical ways.

do you know daisy is a flower?

We were all sitting on the steps of the school on a Saturday, watching afternoon walkers stroll by in front of us. Rhenny and Daisy were the last ones left after the field trip, but I had already dismissed them to go home. They decided on their own to sit and wait with me for my coworker to arrive.

So, we sat and I listened to History assignments and Saturday night plans and then Daisy said, “Do you know daisy is a flower?” I think Rhenny was still talking on my right about his high school aspirations, but I turned to Daisy and just nodded. Her face got especially pleasant, “My mom told it to me this morning. It’s pretty cool, right?”

And then she looked up and said she wished she could fly.

Yes, Daisy. Let’s make plans to fly together sometime and soon. Middle school is this kind of age – where discoveries and dreams trip over one another, jumbling affections and plans and words when you’re sitting on the school steps with your counselor.

Discoveries and dreams are familiar things to me and one of the many reasons why I am mostly a middle school student inside my mostly adult skin.

I do know that daisies are flowers, but I forgot to wonder at them the way Daisy did when she told me what she had just learned. I forgot daisies could be discovered for the first time. Her joy in discovery was deeper because seemed to claim some of that wonder for herself, in her name – like she was proud her name could bloom.

I got pulled in to her wonder and pulled in to the bloom right as she looked up at a moving flock of birds and said she wished she could fly.

The whimsical dream chased the heels of her discovery before my heart could catch up. So, my eyes flew up just above the tree branches to catch the fluttering wings of her inspiration.

“Why would you want to fly, Daisy?”

“Because the air under me and because I could see everything.”

Mmm, good reasons both. Because air would push up beneath her in flight to buoy her forward motion and suspend her in beautiful rebellion against gravity. The air under her would lift her above eye level to a different perspective.

Yes, Daisy, let’s go flying sometime.

I will go with you if I can drop the weight of this adult skin. I want to feel the air under me and see everything, too.

worth it, every banana singing face

Have you ever thought that you are where you are when you are just for one soul?

Maybe it’s been 20 months or 20 years or 20 days in your current vocation, but you’ve found yourself still looking for reasons that explain why you do what you do.

I’m almost exactly at six months in my position as an in-home counselor and if I ever doubted why I spent the last half year doing this work, I got my answer this week. I had two littles in my backseat and we were singing an old gem of a camp song together. I thought it combined the right amount of encouragement toward healthy eating habits while weaving in excitement about delight in the Lord.

I like bananas
I know that mangoes are sweet
I like papayas (papayas!)
But nothing can beat
that sweeeeeeeet love of God

I’ve been walking-round-in-circles-five-miles-per-hour,
tryin’a find my way back to my Heavenly Father
the world tastes sweet but soon it tastes sour
then I ask Him in and I receive His power

We sang it several times, like a loop actually, because at the end we would bounce back and forth with “O!” until our “O!s” ran together and we swung into the bananas again. I saw the actions pumping in my rear view mirror and a smile stretched across my banana singing face. Some time in the middle there, between raps and bridges and verses and O-O-Os, one of the littles asked if we could pray. I gulped past the lump of months prayed for this case and the helpless mound of messes it was stuck inside. I looked into that rear-view mirror and said, “That’s a great idea. I’ll start.”

Before I could say amen, she said, “Now, it’s my turn.” And, oh! What tenderness came from that little one! She rounded it out by saying, “A-num.” After we talked about prayer (and how she can pray whenever and wherever she wants because God loves to listen to us), she thought she had more to pray, so we prayed again. Then we talked about how we can pray about anything – things that make us sad or frustrated or happy or afraid – and there were a few more things she wanted to add, as long as God was listening.

Then we started with the bananas again.

This moment – this one case, this one child, and this one family. This. Maybe every bit of my six months in this vocation has been for such a time as this. So that I can sing about bananas and mangoes and the sweetness of Jesus that is better than all fruit combined.

If every 14-hour-day had moments like these, working might happen with a little less effort. But I also wouldn’t rejoice as deeply or depend as desperately on the Lord for His provision of grace.

Maybe all this – whatever this is for you – is for one single, solitary soul. And, friend, I want to tell you today that that soul is worth every 14-hour-day of frustration. Worth every banana singing face and a million more. Keep pressing on – further up and further in, believing God is glorified by your faith that He is sovereign over moments like these.

Because Jesus left the 99 to rescue that one single, solitary lamb and then became a helpless Lamb to ensure our rescue could be complete.

Occupy Life (things one might do while unemployed)

I thought it would be fun to write a post about unemployed life, because unemployment has been getting a lot of press lately (see Occupy Wall Street and my take on it). Feel free to pass this along to unemployed friends you might know or employed friends who might be interested in how the 9% unemployed could be living right now.

I call this list: Occupy Life

  1. Go a-visiting.
    Make frequent trips to visit neighbors, friends, and your siblings where they provide breakfast, lunch, and dinner and delightful conversation. I’ve found that people are not opposed to this one bit. They enjoy the interruption in routine and a reason to break out the cookies (or special recipe) they’ve been saving for an occasion of any sort. If you have got a knack for baking, maybe you could whip up something before you set out, that’s sure to make someone’s day!
  2. Get your give on.
    It’s a great time to go through everything that has piled up with the promise of “getting to it someday” and then give it away! If you haven’t used it in the past 6 months, do you REALLY need it? Could someone else need it more than you? I will admit my packrat tendencies and, even though I love giving things away, sometimes it’s hard for me to part with things (see below).
  3. Go through collections of junior high love letters.
    I read one that said, “Hi, I like you and you probably know that by now. The problem is, I like 2 other girls and I have a girlfriend. But my girlfriend is going to break up with me (for good reasons) and you know I’ve liked _____ all my life! And the other girl won’t talk to me but when we do hang out we just hold hands.” and then the next note from the same boy said, “I don’t know why you showed ________ the note. She was mad. Well, I guess me and _______ are mad at each other and we were supposed to fight. But, I guess we’re friends again.” Oh, junior high!
  4. Read. read. read.
    There is so much going on in the world and it is overwhelming even if you’re reading the news non-stop. I like to mix things up a bit – news, commentary, theology, philosophy, comedy, fiction, autobiography and biography. Right now, I’m reading an 18th century theologian, the “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire,” and using my internet sleuthing abilities to stalk all kinds of blogs. The most important book you could ever pick up: the Bible. That’s where the wisdom is at, without fail my friends!
  5. Start making Christmas gifts!
    I’ve been in my grandpa’s woodshop – sawing, sanding, drawing and designing and I LOVE what it does for my heart! Spending TIME with people I love making GIFTS for people I love – priceless (and literally doesn’t cost anything because I just scour my parents’ farm for supplies! My brother just happened to get married recently and we used barnboards for decorations…. everyone on my list just might be getting a re-purposed barnboard for Christmas). I smell like sawdust after a couple hours and it makes me feel like I’m working hard to accomplish actions of love. Smells good.
  6. Do what you love doing...
    all day long. If it was me, I would write and/or hang out with kids and/or read. Guess what – being unemployed is technically a dream come true! I already have a computer, internet is free almost everywhere, I have a library of books I haven’t read yet, and there are oodles of ways to make sure I’ve got kiddos in my life!
  7. Deliver pizzas or drive a tractor.
    If “unemployed” means you “can’t find employment suitable to your expectations,” then you most definitely need to make yourself useful in the meantime. Can you drive? Deliver pizzas (as Dave Ramsey would say). Or do what I did – drive a tractor. That’s right. And if you live in a city, I’m sure there are some small businesses that might need extra hands around the holidays! There is absolutely no reason to ask the government to pay you a salary to sit on your couch. Sorry, there are just too many jobs posted for that to make sense. Get humble. It might hurt, but it’s good for you (and me).
  8. Figure out the science of milk foam.
    The key is the milk has to go both up-and-down AND side-to-side. Those fancy machines are so expensive and boring and loud, but the alternative happens to be simple and interesting and very quiet. Just take a beater (one you would use in a hand mixer), heat a small juice glass of milk, and then roll the beater between your hands! Woila! Latté!
  9. People watch.
    Currently, there are some ladies playing a competitive rummy game to my left and a book club to my right (which also appears to be a strategic team to save a local library). I just love imagining what people are thinking or what they are headed home to after coffee. One lady who just left made all her personal/business calls sitting one table away from me. I feel like we’re pretty close now. She has two kids and her oldest just recently joined a sports team, which she is really excited about. She is juggling night college classes with her work schedule and Black Friday might be a hard day.
  10. Cherish the slow moments.
    If there is one thing people like to tell you when you are unemployed, it’s some version of, “Enjoy this time, because you’ll wish you had when you are working full-time.” I get it and I am trying. Complaining doesn’t make me any more qualified, so I’m trying to keep that in mind. The sun shines just as bright on the employed as it does the unemployed (and we have a lot more time to think about it).
  11. Be oh-so-grateful for community.
    This is a serious one. I am part of that 9 percent, but I’m not part of the unemployment movement (can I say that?). I am not waiting and hoping and praying the government will feel responsible for my situation. I am depending on the Body of Christ and they haven’t yet let me down. My friends and family have been so gracious to welcome me into their homes and their lives, showing me love I didn’t ask for or deserve.

    I just got back from Honduras in June and I still haven’t allowed myself to fully process what it means to live here now, but I know that there are people around me ready to support me in the process. My church family has been so encouraging, giving me job leads and networking contacts as well as odd jobs here and there. My parents have been amazing. Never, ever in my life did I think I would say, “Well, I’m 27 and living with my parents.” The sound of it makes me grimace a little. But, can I say this is a uniquely United States discomfort? In other countries this is normal and doing anything else would be foolish.

  12. Apply.
    Did you think I would forget? Ha! I’ve applied for somewhere between 75-100 jobs from California to New York. I spend a little bit of each day either searching or applying or emailing. I talk to people who talk to people who know people who might have something and then I track them down. I’ve applied for jobs in advertising, agriculture, publishing, social work, higher education, and as an administrative assistant. I have had interviews and almost-interviews and people who tell me, “You are exactly what we are looking for, but we don’t think this job would fulfill you.” Really? Let’s wait for paycheck one and let me decide. But, with every rejection (there’ve been many) and every cold call and every dead end, I know that God is not confused or frustrated. He is sovereign and He is good – all the time. I trust in His perfect plan and my place in it.

    If you want to make even this interesting, then you’ll apply for some jobs with a bit of whimsy. I once sent this Cover Letter to an advertising agency with an … interesting angle.

Okay, folks. What additions do you have? I know there are oh-so-many things unemployed peeps can be doing with their time that might be more productive than camping out to make a statement that someone should give them more money.
Well, even the unemployed can
let LOVE fly like cRaZy!

Monday are YUMdays!

MONDAYS are YUMDAYS

I love Mondays. No, really. I LOVE Mondays.

You think I’m kidding, but today sealed the deal. Here are some of the things today that overflowed my cup:

 

 

  1. I drove to school instead of rode the bus, which perfectly placed about 8.5 extra minutes to spend with David in 1 Samuel
  2. I ran out of coffee filters at my house, but savored a Vanilla Chai tea… delicious start!
  3. I met the day with uncharacteristic (before coffee), silly joy and greeted students with grand gestures and lopsided smiles.
  4. During our mid-morning break, I was heading back from an errand in the administration building, secretly hoping two certain, special students would be waiting in my office… and THEY WERE. I think I scared them with my loopy-ness and laughter, but I don’t care. I love it when I find students in my office… especially when the special ones appear!
  5. CHAPEL happens Monday and today was such a blessing! I am sure many of the seniors won’t admit it, but they want to know about hearing God’s voice. That was exactly the message!
  6. Then, I got to counsel one of my favorite students using a SWEET analogy about records playing in our heads. Sometimes we’ve let the record of lies steal the show and we listen to it over and over and start to believe all the foolishness it plays. We’ve got to put that sweet record called Truth on stat and then you better believe we’re gonna speak and act out of that life-giving overflow! I’ll admit, my favorite part was connecting it to a Corinne Bailey Rae song, “Put Your Records On” because every time I saw her I broke out into singing.
  7. I love that THIS was shown to remember our time at the SLEEPout!
  8. then…(drumroll) it’s MONDAY so that means culinary collision with two of my favorite ladies! I seriously can’t explain how beautiful and brilliant these girls are… so I won’t try. Just read this blogpost and you’ll get a little taste of the night (not a real taste, but a cyber-ish one:).
  9. I love praying in my car on the way back from Monday baking dates. Shoot, and I just have to say again how much I love these amazing high school girls. They may/may not be changing my life (mostly may).
  10. I may/may not have consumed too much caffeine today (mostly may), which means I might be up writing for awhile!

I hope you are going to

let LOVE fly like CRAZY

God, my place – article by Andrée Seu

This morning as I read this article, I was reminded that our comfort and refuge and peace is not a place in the distant future, but a promise for right here and now.

Be encouraged today by Seu’s words and remember that God invites you into His presence to experience His joy and perfect peace. After Hurricane Matthew loomed on the north coast this past weekend, a safe place seems much more urgent. In God’s grace, Tegucigalpa escaped with only rain, but our brothers and sisters in the North are feeling the repercussions of the tropical storm. Always – in times of uncertainty and in times of great promise – we will find a welcome location. Amen?

She writes,

Being “in Christ” was once an abstract doctrine. No more. It is a location. And when I obey His commands, those are doorways that bring me deeper into Him. The deeper into Him, the greater the experience of peace and joy. “Abide in me,” He says, and I had thought it was a metaphor, when all along it was a mystery.

Here’s the full article: God, my place.

Hello, world!

Yes. Hello.

I am coming to wordpress with my blogspot tail between my legs because I can’t figure out for the LIFE of me why I can’t log into my own blog. So, I took it as a sign to move along and into a new blogosphere, after several months break over the summer.

Now, here I am. I’m not sure how hard it will be to spread the word that I am now posting here, but I hope the transition won’t be too painful. I also hope that I can really master the art of blogging here… maybe even try a few new things and kick it up a notch, in an overnight writing sensation kind of way.

Let’s not get ahead of yourself, you are thinking. Okay, then. I’ll stick to what I do best and see who shows up to read it. How about that?

I have a LOT to update about, so I may have to resort to the awfully uninteresting bullet points for a few posts, but then I promise things will get more interesting.