Tuesday, May 31, 2011

I Still Remember...When Thirty was Old...

If you had asked me five years ago what I would be doing if I was single on my 30th birthday, I would have said, “Curled up in a ball on my bed, having a major emotional meltdown.”  I’m not actually a dramatic person, but I suppose I do have my moments.
                As it turns out, I am not curled up in a ball and I am not having a major (or even minor) emotional meltdown.  Yay me!  It’s been a rough couple of months to be sure, and I still have hours or even days of feeling angry or sad or even slightly panicked.  But overall, I think I might just be happy. 
                I’m fresh from a weekend at the beach with some of my favorite people in the world.  I’m a firm believer that good salt air, especially of the Carolina variety, can cure just about anything.  My soul seems at home by the ocean.  It’s one of the few places I’ve found on earth where I can just be, where I can happily read for hours on end without getting distracted or analyzing my life to death or feeling antsy.  The beach enables me to rest like nowhere else, which is perhaps why this was my second of a total of six beach trips planned this summer.  That much time by the water, and all of my problems will be solved by July! Ok, maybe not.
                I also know that I am well-loved.  Whatever salt air can’t cure, my loyal, kind, quirky, honest, hilarious friends can.  I have been reminded all month that no matter what I think God has withheld from me up to this point, He has poured down the blessing of friendship into my life, and I am grateful.  Friendship that is deep and lasting, the kind where even if you haven’t seen or talked to each other in months, you can still pick up right where you left off.  I have friends who have loved me in my darkest moments and spoken truth to me when I most needed, but least wanted, to hear it.  Friends who have prayed with me before going into church because I felt assaulted every time I walked through the door.  Friends who fall off ladders in the middle of the night or try to light candles using a paper towel and the stove or vainly attempt to kill a colony of spiders that have surrounded my car.  Friends who have listened to and encouraged me, and who have been enraged on my behalf.  I like it when people stick up for me. 
                The last reason I think I’m happy this birthday is that, well, my 20s kinda sucked.  Not totally, of course.  Most of my aforementioned friends were people I met in my 20s.  I’ve had some amazing, once-in-a-lifetime vacations.  I figured out this whole real-world business (sort of).  Considering that I haven’t gotten into any major trouble, I’ve been gainfully employed for the vast majority of my post-college years, and I haven’t completely self-destructed yet, I guess you could say I’m doing pretty well.  But let’s be honest, the 20s were hard.  Most of my lessons came at a price.  I’ve taken some costly wrong turns.  I’ve cried a lot of tears, and my heart was broken more than once.  I think I’ve spent the last ten years in various states of angst, wondering where my life was going to go, who I was going to marry, if I was going to marry, and other life-defining yet profoundly annoying questions.
                I still don’t have the answers to any of those questions, but the good thing is that I’m more ok with that than I used to be.  I guess Professor Armitage (of UNC’s English department) was right—getting older doesn’t mean you figure out any of the answers, it just means you’re more at peace with not knowing any of the answers.   Years ago, my dad gave his perfectionist, worrying daughter a card about how life was about the journey, not the destination.  I still have that card, and I still need that reminder.  My destination is secure.  The end of my story will be glorious and joyful and eternal.  But I want to enjoy the ride.  All of my life’s ups and downs and sorrows and exhilarations and tears and laughter have been ordained by God—for my good. 
                I hope that my 30s are “better” than my 20s, whatever that means.  I would prefer more laughter and fewer tears.  I would especially like a dating relationship that culminates in marriage, not in heartbreak.  I would like more peace and less angst, more wisdom and fewer wrong turns.  More than anything, though, I want more of Christ.
                And (my apologies if you’re offended), along with my birthday twin Taylor Sands, I want to take 30 by the balls! 

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Ooh heaven is a place on earth...

Or not so much…unless it’s Fiji.  And Seely Booth is there.  Oh wait—that can’t be right.  Moving on…
When I was younger, in high school and college and maybe even my early twenties, the idea of eternity really freaked me out.  I felt like I was “supposed” to be longing for eternity, but I wasn’t.  There are two reasons for this: 1) I thought eternity meant I’d be singing songs all day long for infinity, and really, I’d appreciate something else to do, and 2) I really wanted to have sex before I died or Jesus returned.  Hey, I’m just being honest.
The real world has changed my attitude drastically.  Whatever pleasures do or do not await me in this life, I would rather be hanging out with God (either I’ve spiritually matured or just given up).  About five or six years ago, I began to really long for eternity in a way I never dreamed possible before.  Emotionally, I was at a pretty low place, and I wanted an escape from it.  My first longings for heaven were more about an end to my own pain and less about being fully united with Christ.  Over the past several years, this has started to shift, as I’ve fallen more in love with God, but I also started experiencing a different reticence about eternity.
                I want my own pain and griefs and sin and brokenness taken away, and I find great comfort in the idea of final justice resting in the hands of God.  But what about ways I’ve been hurt by others who profess to be believers?  What happens to broken relationships among Christians?  What happens to apologies that are never issued or wrongs that are never made right in this world?  I have a much easier time forgiving non-Christians for hurting me than I do my own brothers and sisters in Christ, as awful and sinful as that is.   I also know I’m guilty of causing other people hurt, and there are likely things I need to seek forgiveness for but haven’t, out of either ignorance or pride.  But there’s something in me that bristles against the thought that all of those wrongs and hurts and broken relationships will just be wiped away.  It doesn’t seem like enough.  I don’t want them forgotten; I want them fixed. 
                So imagine my utter astonishment when I discovered that, according to Tim Keller, I was looking at eternity all wrong.  I hope I’m not breaking any copyright laws by quoting him here, but in The Reason for God, he writes that the Biblical view of the resurrection is

not a future that is just a consolation for the life we never had but a restoration of the life you always wanted.  This means that every horrible thing that ever happened will not only be undone and repaired but will in some way make the eventual glory and joy even greater…Jesus insisted that his return will be with such power that the very material world and universe will be purged of all decay and brokenness. All will be healed and all might-have-beens will BE…Everything sad is going to come untrue and it will somehow be greater for having once been broken and lost.
For some reason, I’ve never considered this before.   Maybe this isn’t news to everybody else, but the idea that that every sad thing will become un-sad is revolutionary to me.   It’s restoration on a different scale.  It means that all the painful things of this world won’t just be erased, like they never happened, they’ll actually be restored to something beautiful and glorious and joyful.  I want this to take root in my heart so that I might be able to rest more fully in the hope of eternity with Christ and what that really means for my future. 

Monday, May 16, 2011


In 12 years, I have had 22 roommates (I think) and nine addresses.   As of tomorrow, that will be 10 addresses, but still 22 roommates because I’m recycling one.  Since graduating from college, I have lived in the same place for more than a year only once, and I’ve had seven different jobs.  My guess is that next summer I’ll be moving again.  It’s not that I don’t love living with Sara (because I do), it’s just that I’ve figured out my life’s patterns by now, and nothing seems to be very permanent for me.  This particular move was brought on by someone else, but I like the new place and the roommate, and Molly will have lots of dog friends nearby, so I’m trying to stay positive, despite being slightly (or a little more than slightly) angry at the circumstances that brought me here.
                And the truth is, I love my current roommates.  I really, really love them.  That little house on Raven Lane has been a home for the last two turbulent and difficult years.  I will miss it partly because I like the neighborhood and the yard and the front porch and the patio.  But mostly because I love the people in it who’ve loved me well in the midst of my struggles.  And there is always beer/wine/liquor when I need it.           
                I’m not sure what my constant moves and job changes say about me.  According to a stress evaluation I recently had to take for a new volunteer opportunity, all of these changes (and relationship changes) translate to a higher than average stress load and put me at risk for physical and mental illness.  Awesome.  Maybe God is simply trying to cure me of every bad habit that being an only child instilled in me.  After all, of my many roommates there were only three that I didn’t like living with, so I’m pretty sure I’ve got that whole sharing thing down by now.  There may well be more than three who didn’t like living with me, but I’m not going to ask and find out.  Maybe I’ve come to a point where I actually like change, and I now fear stagnancy and boredom.   I would very much like some stability in my life, but I’m also scared of it…if I stop moving, will I somehow stop growing?
                In my mind, a new place can also bring a fresh start.  That’s especially true this time.  I want a fresh start, a chance for a clean slate.  I can’t erase the painful memories of my past, although that would be nice, but I think I move on more easily in a place that’s free of those memories and all of the emotions attached to them.  So I’m hoping this next residence will bring fewer tears and new adventures…and just maybe a new pond might bring some new fish :)

Monday, May 2, 2011

Body Confession

Recently I came across a website for body confessions.   The site was started by a woman who set out to research body image and later wanted to provide a forum for women to air their struggles and insecurities.  After reading through many of the posts, I can’t decide if I think this is a good idea.  On one hand, I think talking honestly about our problems can get rid of stigma and make it easier to seek help and encouragement.  It's good to know we're not alone.  But on the other hand, I can’t help but wonder if the website reinforces bad body image and makes women worry about things we never worried about before.  After all, the beauty industry has given us countless products to combat problems we never knew we had.  Do we really need more negative reinforcement? Mostly, though, the site just makes me sad that so many women (and a few men) look at themselves in the mirror and hate what they see. 
                I have had friends of all ages and stages and body types suffer from anorexia or bulimia or EDNOS (eating disorder not otherwise specified), or even just rampant insecurity about what they look like. An amazing younger woman (19) in my life once wanted to bleach her skin to get rid of her gorgeous freckles. I, on the other hand, would love to have her freckles, and her curly hair.  I look at the women in my life, and I think they’re all beautiful, all made in the image of God.  We are all fearfully and wonderfully made.  Scripture is pretty clear that beauty is fleeting (time is pretty clear on that front too) and reminds us over and over again that the heart is what matters.
                But it seems like even in Christian circles, we’ve forgotten this.  We’ve convinced ourselves that we’re not good enough or lovable enough or marry-able enough unless we’re also beautiful by the world’s (ridiculously unattainable) standards.  Whether this has always been a trap to ensnare women or if it has come on more recently with the prevalence of mirrors, models, Estee Lauder, and Neutrogena, I’m not sure. I think if God had to tell us that beauty is fleeting, then maybe it’s always been there, but I can’t help but think it’s gotten worse.
                For most of my late adolescent and adult life, I was somewhat immune to this struggle, or at least I’ve been able to rein it in.  I was so skinny when I was younger (my not-so-nice nickname in elementary and middle school was “scrawny ferret”) that when I finally got curves, I figured I ought to be grateful for them.  But when I started reading the website, I recognized my own thoughts in what some of the women posted.  Because the most recent guy in my life was so overly concerned with both his weight and mine, I now find myself thinking I’m not thin enough or pretty enough or fancy enough to ever be loved.  That is my (quite vulnerable) body confession.   
I’m both saddened that I think this and seriously pissed off.  The good news is that I know what God says about me and I usually know what my friends think about me too. I know what God’s design for marriage is, and I also know exactly what I would tell any woman, young or old, who was battling with any of the things the dark voices sometimes whisper in my ear.  So I’m going to choose to believe the voices of truth, and I’m going to tell those other voices to get the hell out of my way.