Sunday, November 8, 2015

Take...and remember me


The pastor of my church called me onto stage this morning and gave me a hundred dollars in cash. He actually gave me $111 dollars and asked for $11 dollars back, as an illustration of how we should tithe and trust the Lord with all of our finances. Walking off stage, my hand was sweating and heart pulsing through my clenched fist holding the cash. As I took my seat, I quickly placed the money on my friend’s lap sitting next to me. I kept wondering what the congregation must have thought of the pastor inviting a well dressed, mid-30s white woman onto the stage out of all of the people he must have known in the congregation who could ‘really’ use that money to put food on the table, pay the electricity bill, buy diapers for their newborn. The congregation didn’t know that I’d spent the last 22 months applying for literally hundreds upon hundreds of jobs and enrolled for unemployment benefits. For nearly two years, feelings of worthlessness, helplessness, being forgotten, ashamed, and dismayed have taunted my head and heart. I’ve prayed, even begged and pleaded, that God would end my misery and take my life. Throughout the sermon this morning, I was reminded of God’s steady presence in my life. There’s a powerful opportunity in the here and now to trust that my life is not meaningless because I don’t have a job, husband, or children, just as it is not meaningful because I hold a Masters degree, have travelled the globe or once had dinner with Tom Cruise. In the midst of being focused on fixing my unemployment status, I began to believe it was ME who was solely responsible for getting myself into this pit and solely ME who needed to pull myself up out of it. There are fabulous friends in my life who adhere to this philosophy and believe that if we’d all visualize ourselves in Utopia, we will manifest it. However, I have visualized myself as a teacher, a wife, and a mother for years and no metamorphosis has occurred to free me from my current cocoon. I now know that I did not get myself into this rut and I cannot get myself out. Daniel had no chance in hell of escaping a lion’s den on his own volition and it is time for me to recognize this for my own life. When I do finally get a job, there will be no ounce of me, no power in visualization, no secret, no voodoo magic that has caused it to be so. It will be a miracle and I will boast of God’s mercy, love, provision and care over my life.

If you are struggling with depression, thoughts of suicide, worthlessness, hopelessness, or grief...I would love to talk with you, go for a walk with you, be beside you in this tough season. I have no easy answers, I will not throw scripture at you, I just don't want you to feel alone.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Unattainable

It’s meeting the man of my dreams and then meeting his beautiful wife Isn’t it ironic? Alanis Morissette As a Canadian-American singer-songwriter, Alanis Morisette swept the music scene of the 90s on a global scale. Particularly popular was Jagged Little Pill, which became the second-best-selling album of the entire decade. Morisette’s clear voice, unique sound, and eccentric personality were perhaps most apparent in her 1995 music video for Ironic. Naturally, many of us were quickly drawn in, rewinding the tape numerous times in order to learn every word so that we as well could belt the catchy toon out the windows of our 1995 Pontiac Grand Prix. However, in my adolescent years, I couldn’t wrap my head around the irony of Morisette’s lyrics written above. How could meeting the man of my dreams and then meeting his beautiful wife possibly be ironic? Tragic? Yes. Cruel joke of the gods? Yes. But ironic just didn’t make sense. Perhaps the irony resided in the assumption that all the good men are taken and therefore how could I have ever been so na├»ve to assume this perfect man could still be available? Most people who’ve known me for more than a nanosecond will have heard me say it’s either a good time, or a good story. I am convinced in years to come I will look back on my trek towards love with clearer understanding, the strength to laugh, and perhaps even see the irony in the story. However, at this particular season of life I look back and see a ridiculous romantic train wreck with The Kenyan Cheater, The South African Swinger, The Panamanian Pandemoniac, and The Faraway Fijian. How is it possible that some people (my beloved brother and his wife) can make the process of finding love look effortless? It’s like those moms at the beach who perfectly park their expensive SUV in the one shady spot, gracefully exit in a pristine white flowing dress, take their happy child from the car seat, retrieve one small bag from the trunk, and saunter their way to the waves. Whereas my love life is more like a disheveled mother falling out of the car in a rush to retrieve the screaming child from the backseat, shirt already stained with vomit, Cheerios lodged in hair, attempting to grab the chairs, cooler, umbrella, diaper bag, and beach bag from the trunk, then limping my way to the beach for all to judge. This process of finding love has been anything but an effortless day on the beach. Many people have dated someone who has cheated on them, or someone who finally gains the courage to admit they’re gay after being engaged for months, or someone who is financially, emotionally, mentally unstable. Though I’ve dated all of these men, the cruelest joke would have to be falling in love with the perfect man who I can never have. Unlike Morisette’s lyrics, this man does not have a beautiful wife, in fact, he is in love with me as well. But alas, it is a love that can never be. He’s the most honorable man I’ve met, simple, humble, hard-working, hilarious, loving, tender, forgiving, learner, and a complete anomaly amidst his culture. The very best of his culture embraces foreigners as family, raises each others’ children, supports one another through tragedy and triumphs. The aspects of his culture that’d keep me from ever residing there include stringent gender roles, lack of respect towards women, addiction to kava, language, and laziness. Can he move to the States? Well, apart from never wearing shoes, I could never ask him to leave. He is integral to his culture in a way that most westerners could never grasp. Isn’t it ironic? No. It’s not ironic. It’s not even comparable to 10,000 spoons when all you need is a knife. It’s painful. It’s cruel. It hurts. And yet in the very midst of this pain, I hope to someday look back and see the good time, the good story. I hope to laugh with purest joy and gratitude that I once knew a man on a faraway island who complemented my strengths and weaknesses, sharpened my mind, softened my heart, and ignited passion. There will forever be a place in my heart for this unattainable man.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Finding Home

Home is where the heart is.
Bloom where you’re planted.
It’s not about the place, it’s about the people.

One scene I remember vividly from my childhood was a time when I was choreographing intricate dance moves to Belinda Carlisle’s Heaven is a Place on Earth. In the middle of my intense choreography my mother walked over to my Magnavox D8300 Yellow Boombox and shut Belinda off. “Heaven is not a place on earth,” said my mother sternly. She went on to say other words that I did not hear because I was utterly distraught that she’d had the nerve to shut off the tape I’d just spent hours recording off of 92 Moose WWME Maine’s #1 Hit Music Station. My mother was attempting to teach me that heaven could never be a place on earth because heaven is our home. In other words, we will never be fully satisfied or content here on earth because our hearts, hope, and home is in heaven.

Fabulous. This is just great news. How hopeful would anyone feel to learn they will never feel at home, at peace, or content on earth? However, lately I have been wondering if perhaps this is reality.

I have lived in Athens, Wenham, Gilroy, Santa Cruz, Pasadena, Beverly Hills, Jeffreys Bay, Cape Town, Brattleboro, and Spokane. Not one of these places have I considered home. When people ask “where’s home?” I don’t have an answer. When people ask “if you could live anywhere in the world where would you live?” I don’t have an answer. Ideally, I’d live near friends. However, they are spread throughout the world. Ideally, I’d live in a warm climate by the ocean. However, the 1% have cornered the market on any hope of living in such a place. Ideally, I’d live somewhere that had people from any and every season of life, rich in culture, socioeconomics, ideology, race, mentality, and spirituality. However, I’ve never found such a place.

As a single, thirty-three year old, white, heterosexual, Jesus-emulating, sun-loving, eclectic, liberated, woman it has been the most challenging endeavor to find home in the midst of continually uprooting. Building community from square one is quite comparable to building a sand castle – it takes immeasurable time and effort, depends solely on the substance of the sand, and gets washed away with every new wave. Being single at 33 presents significant challenges in making friends who are similar in age, ideology, and season of life. My current living location is actually worse than rural Africa in this regard. People in my current big town/small city (or as I enjoy referring to it as a tity) tend to fall into one, some, or all of the following categories: have lived here for over ten years, all their friends have lived here for over ten years, have no need for new friends. This tity is predominantly homogeneous, monocultural, and white. It is depressing.

Frankly, I’m at a loss. I don’t want to settle in the current tity where I reside which makes me not want to invest in community here. However, how am I every going to create community unless I stay in one place for a longer duration than a few years? So does one choose to stay, invest, hunker down and create a home or does one search for the environment they desire to live in and hope the community in that environment will share similar interests, values, etc?

Heaven may not be a place on earth, but it seems that a home, a haven, should exist somewhere for everyone.

Monday, January 10, 2011

21 Days

A dear friend invited me to participate in an extended activity for 2011 - each month focusing on a particular thought/deed/action for 21 days. The schedule is as follows:

January - 21 days of Self Care
February - 21 days of Gratitude
March - 21 days of Thinking Globally, Living Locally
April - 21 days of Walking with the Rabbi, Jesus
May - 21 days Loving One Person Well
June - 21 days Seeing Injustice
...still brainstorming ideas for the last 6 months of the year.

In addition to simply acting, thinking, seeing, participating differently we decided to blog about what we were thinking, seeing, participating in, and/or acting upon.

For January I am taking care of myself by joining Weight Watchers, getting my ass to the gym 5-6 days a week, and being more consistent with taking all my vitamins! I want these changes to be lifelong, habitual, routine, and necessary to my daily routine. I've already learned how to cook Quinoa, experimented with baking butternut squash and kale, and am perfecting split pea soup!

The most immediate difference I have observed in conscientiously taking care of myself is that I am able to better give, provide, share my time and energy with others. I am operating at a fuller capacity and therefore can pour out more to others. Like most good and healthy things once put into practice we wonder why we hadn't made the change earlier. And yet it is a daily challenge to get up at 5:30am and make my way to the gym. A daily temptation to resist the food that is easy and accessible and take the time to cook something nourishing. It takes thought, care, and drive to persevere...take up one's cross, put on the sword, shield, thy daily bread. Daily. Moment by moment.

It is a good reminder at how vulnerable and fragile we all are - susceptible at any point to the snares and lures of darkness. I want to give my best to others and therefore must give the best to myself. Out of the overflow of thy heart (and energy) shall thy mouth speak (and actions be taken).

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Living life through headlights

"E.L. Doctorow said once said that 'Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.' You don't have to see where you're going, you don't have to see your destination or everything you will pass along the way. You just have to see two or three feet ahead of you. This is right up there with the best advice on writing, or life, I have ever heard."
— Anne Lamott (Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life)

I was asked the other day by a college student "so what do you want to do with your life?" For a college student I can see how that would be a common question. However, seeing as I have graduated from college, graduated from graduate school, and held a number of professional positions I find it odd that I should still be asked such a question.

In every single season of life I have felt pressure from friends, family, society, "clocks ticking", etc edging me forward in life. To begin life. Numerous times people have uttered the words "I really think (hope) something special will come of this next season/chapter/position for you". Truth be told the "something" often literally means "someone"...though lately less people have offered false hope of meeting my husband "just around the corner"…perhaps they’ve given up hope? Nevertheless, I finally had the sense to start telling people that I have been living my life to the absolute fullest and not waiting for a certain life to begin, waiting for a 30 year career to suck away my life, pining away in my bedroom waiting for a prince to rescue me from an affair with Ben&Jerry! Hell, I've traveled and lived around the world. Met the most incredible people. And I'm supposed to feel like life hasn't begun for me? That's just total bullshit. I've succumbed to feeling like I have sacrificed a lot in order to travel and floundered in my career path by taking the most amazing job opportunities. In interviewing for jobs I constantly have been put on trial to testify and justify my eclectic resume. And guess what? I’m over it. I’m over trying to justify my life…why I’m single and in my 30s, why I’ve moved around the globe, why I haven’t followed a particular career path. The above quote by Doctorow depicts my life so well – I’m moving forward and following the path that has been lit before me. Granted sometimes God has dimmed those lights and asked me to steer by faith, conviction, and heart. Even the most difficult and challenging paths have led me forward in my journey. In fact, it has been the rough roads that have broken me in, prepared me greater for the plethora of obstacles that continue to arise. I handle and maneuver rough terrain with a different ease than I once did. That’s growth I suppose and I’m thankful for it.

My heart goes out to the millions of college students, recent graduates, and those “flounderers” around the world who are constantly grilled about where their life is heading. My suggestion…before asking your dumb questions, ask yourself first “what have I done and what am I doing with my own life?” Once you are satisfied completely with that answer…not by the standards of the world, your parents, your boss, your professors, your spouse…but truly by your own standards…once you’ve completely impressed yourself with your awesome adventurous, life-giving, life-enriched, selfless life…then and only then can you ask someone else what they are doing with theirs. And guess what? Once you’ve reached that awe-inspiring life that you love I guarantee that your question (or at least the tone of your question) will inspire instead of deflate the human being you are inquiring of.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Blind Date

Tonight I helped a good friend get ready for a blind date.

To prepare for this occasion we went on a wondrous adventure to the land of Sephora. Now for all my Sex & the City girlfriends a trip to Sephora or the MAC counter is as common as a trip to the grocery store. But for my dear friend who, like my mother, had never worn a pinch of makeup in her life, this was quite a foreign concept. Such a foreign concept in fact that this lovely 35 year old when inquiring about which brush was used for which purpose asked if she could use a small eyelid brush to apply her foundation and blush. To which the oh so gay and fabulous makeup artist giggled and responded politely "Technically you could use that brush, it just may take a couple hours. And I'm not laughing at you, it's just that that's quite possibly the most adorable thing I've ever heard."

Yet another classic moment in life.

Here was this amazingly accomplished woman who I can barely keep up with in daily conversations, absolutely left in the dust conversing about politics, public policies, or anything anthropological (she holds a PhD from Yale in Anthro) and yet she was over the moon excited about me taking her to Sephora! Precious...just precious.

When I think about having money I think about these moments and how I would spoil all of my friends. I know, I know, I'm trying desperately to consume less...but if you'd seen my friend's face as she left Sephora with her little black bag of beauty 101 essentials, dear god, you'd wish you were freakin' Santa!

Thinking about this too much makes me despise money. I despise it because I don't have it. But I don't want it just for me - I want it to replay moments like the scenario I've just described. I want to go to dinner with friends and as we chat about the economy being in the shit hole and how work sucks I sneak my credit card to the waiter and tell him to inform my friends 'the bill is on us tonight'. I want to take my girlfriends who work so hard at being incredible mothers, wives, friends, and sisters out for manicures, pedicures, and a massage. I want send my parents on the trip to Italy they've been promising to go on for 20 years. I want to finally buy my Bed n' Breakfast and host fabulous dinners and parties for all the people I love.

Giving is the greatest joy and it's my favorite expression of love.

So Lord, since it's better to give than receive, would you mind taking care of my $50,000 of student loans and giving me a rich husband so I can spoil all my friends? Thanks Jesus, you're the best. xoxo

Friday, January 22, 2010

An empty seat.

Riding the subway yesterday I couldn't help noticing the perfectly feng shui placement of people sitting in every other seat. Granted the subway is a bit old school and the seats haven't been updated to accommodate our large luscious American booties, but would that really have made a difference? The seats in most airports around the US (and I've been in most) are pretty spacious and yet when choosing a seat people meander around looking for additional empty seats...often choosing in the end to stand.

Why?

Why do we avoid the empty seat adjacent to a stranger? Seems we've become so accustomed to our personal space that we avoid infringing on others. In a world of connecting via electronics are we losing our ability to connect, to touch, to see, to be a part of one another's lives?

Flying over the winter holidays is shear insanity - I do it every year with the promise of never doing it again. This last year I was held up in the DC airport with thousands of others due to weather conditions. As I walked around the airport, trying to pass the time away, I noticed a woman trying to place a call at the payphone. I actually had forgotten that payphones still existed. Seemed utterly unnecessary for this poor woman to pay for her call. I approached her and offered my cell phone. She explained in a familiar accent that the call was international. "Not a problem, I have Skype".

As I set my computer up for her to access Skype (yes I realize if I had an iPhone this would've taken less steps) I started inquiring about her story. She was from South Africa - a place I knew fairly well as I'd lived there for a period of time. She'd been in America on business, was heading home when her flight was cancelled, and had been trying to reach her husband for hours to let him know she was stuck in DC. She was exhausted, sad, frazzled, and felt completely out of her element - helpless and losing hope.

I love moments like these - simple human connection through a simple gesture.

After making the call to her husband and sending a few emails to co-workers explaining her situation she thanked me profusely, offered to buy me coffee (to which I declined as I'd just filled my mug with tea), and parted ways.

From this one seemingly insignificant moment my spirit was instantly lifted. I no longer cared about waiting in the airport. I began chatting with people around me and tried to ease their minds about being home for the holidays. I felt like skipping, throwing daisy peddles, dancing a jig - joy, pure joy, resounded through me.

What do I make of all this?

I'm not exactly sure.

In simple terms I now see an empty seat as an opportunity - an opportunity to connect, to touch, to see, to be a part of another's life.