Note to Self 5

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Sometimes things are crazy and life is a mess and you’re rushing and playing catch up and frazzled. That doesn’t mean you did something wrong. Don’t waste time looking for the mistake that caused the rush if there’s no mistake to be found. Life is hard sometimes. That doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong.

Passports and mountains

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One time a very concerned and loving dad brought his son to Jesus. His son had been suffering violent seizures for his entire life. This dad was hoping that Jesus could heal his son. This dad was hoping that he wouldn’t have to continue to watch his son’s body betray him and put him in danger. I imagine this dad had been to religious leaders and healers before. I imagine he’d tried medicines and prayer and lifestyle changes in attempts to heal his son. So now he’s coming to Jesus, hoping that maybe this guy will know what he’s doing.

So he says, “If you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” The Bible says that Jesus said, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” But I imagine there was a “pfft” in there somewhere. “Pfft! If I can? Have you not heard of me?” Something like that.

Then this poor long-suffering dad cries out, “I believe, help my unbelief!”

And for the past couple of months this has been my life verse.

My favorite part of this exhausted father’s exclamation is that it’s one sentence. It’s one, seemingly contradictory thought. I believe, help my unbelief. I get it, I have no idea. I understand the Bible, it doesn’t make any sense. I love God, I barely know Him. I am capable, I need lots of help. I’m fine, I’m crying.

I believe that until the day I die I will be able to cry out this crazy proclamation with this loving dad. I believe that I’m settling in to the truth that we can never know it all, that for our whole entire lives we can believe with our whole hearts while knowing at the same time that even that belief is dependent on the God who empowers and enables us. I believe, help my unbelief.

It’s another in a long line of the “fake it till you make it” scenarios that make up my life. Even when I’m not sure what I believe, I know exactly who to call out to for help. I know that I can confidently and shakily stand on the completely mysterious foundation of Jesus sure that I believe in Him but not always sure what that means.

The other day I was talking about the Bible with two Jehovah’s Witnesses and a German doctor with a lot of questions. One of my favorite parts of the conversations was when the skeptical German asked a question and I said, “I don’t know! I have no idea.” I believe, help my unbelief.

A couple days later I was looking for my passport for my upcoming trip to the States. I usually keep my passport in the same place but I had needed it for something and instead of putting it back in the usual spot I put it somewhere else. Except it wasn’t where I thought I had put it. So I decided to start in one corner of my house and look very carefully until I found it. Before I started looking I twirled around my kitchen and prayed. (That’s how everyone prays, right? Twirling?) I said, “Lord, you said that if I believe I can move mountains, I can actually move mountains. Well, I believe that no matter where my passport is right now that You can put it somewhere where I can find it.”

And He did. Not 10 minutes later I found my passport in a random empty binder on the shelf. I definitely did not put it there.

But then I said, “But God, I also believe, I really, really believe, that you can get all the cancer out of the 6th grade girl at Las Palmas. And I really, really believe that you can heal my friend’s mom. With the same faith I had about my passport! So why don’t you do that? We believe, Lord! Why isn’t the mountain moving?” We believe, help our unbelief. 

The thing is, if we believe what He said about moving mountains, we have to believe what He said about working all things together for our good, even when cancer feels like everything NOT good. He loves us, right? He knows what He’s doing, right? I believe, help my unbelief.

Big Magic Changed My Life

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This week I read Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear and it changed my life.

I think I say that a lot, that something changed my life, but that’s how we grow. We experience something and we let it change us. We read, for example, My Notorious Life by Kate Manning and we let it change (or at least broaden) our thinking on abortion and birth control. We see a picture of a child, a child that could’ve been any one of our children, washed up dead on a beach and we let it change (or at least broaden) our thinking on the refugee situation in our world today. We hear about the pipeline that a big oil company wants to put through the Dakotas and we let it change (or at least broaden) our thinking on oil and the economy and our resources and what is right.

So I read Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic and I let it change my thinking on creativity, specifically my own creativity. The whole book is about creative living, but as I was reflecting this morning on my life as a whole I realized Elizabeth Gilbert had taught me a thing or two about living in general.

Today was supposed to be my day off. Once a week I get one day completely off when I don’t have to come to the hostel or answer emails about the hostel or even think about the hostel! Of course, as how in the first month or so of each school year all of my dreams are about school, most of my dreams are still about the hostel, so we’re working on that last one.

So that was today, my day off! But then yesterday a few new reservations came in. And then this morning my boss’s mother wanted to take her out to lunch before going back to her home a couple hours away. So I am currently sitting in the hostel, for the seventh day in a row since my last day off (last Thursday), not having a day off. Not a complete day off, anyway.

This morning as I was preparing to come to work I started to cry. I started to pout about poor me and how my life isn’t fair and I work harder than anyone and all I wanted was one measly day off amidst seven 9 hour days at work and my boss just doesn’t appreciate me and she thinks her life is more important than mine.

I know. Pretty dramatic stuff.

But then the gentle Holy Spirit reminded me of what’s true, of what’s truer than my feelings. About how the other day my boss surprised me with an entire giant pizza all for myself for no reason other than that she appreciates me. About how every single day about five times a day my boss thanks me for doing my job. About how not once since I started has my boss paid me my salary, but is always giving me giant and generous tips. About how the one who was making my boss’s life (and consequently the hostel) more important than my life was not my boss, but me.

I’m going to type up that last point again because it changed my life. The one who was making my job the most important thing in my life was me.

So here’s what I learned from Elizabeth Gilbert: I learned that done and bad is better than perfect and unfinished. I learned that WHEN I finish my novel, if it’s not very good, it won’t actually matter very much. I learned that the important part is the doing, the creating. I learned that the songs I make up throughout the day about my dogs or my pizza or my broom are the building blocks of a creative life. And above all I learned (again) that I am in charge of my life. I’m the boss of my life!

Which means if my job is the most important thing in my life, that’s all on me. If I’m letting work and Netflix squeeze their way into all of my creating time then that’s on me, baby. Every time I would joke, “Oh, I can stay late, I don’t have anything better to do,” or say, “It’s not like I have a life,” I was making work the most important thing. I was belitting my own life! And if I’m not going to stand up for my own life, who is?

Here’s the thing. I do have things to do and I do have a life. I might not have a lot of local friends or appointments or lunch dates (with people other than myself) but I have work to do, dammit! I have a book to finish and yoga to practice and songs to make up and books to read. And all of that is important, but only if I say it is.

The whole point of me moving to Jarabacoa was to build my own life from the ground up. To listen carefully to what God is asking me to do and to do it. To decide what is most important. And guess what? It’s not my job. At least not anymore.

51-60 of 100

This latest batch is a diverse bunch of books. From pen pals to psychos, from time travel to space travel, I’ve read some tales! I’m still four books behind but determined to catch up.

NON-FICTION
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Why do non-fiction books always have such long titles? Nothing beyond the colon is necessary. It’s like movie previews these days! They give everything away.

Everybody needs to read Half the Sky by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. Everybody. It’s about women, the strength and the struggles and the abuse and the education and the empowerment and the beauty and the brokenness and the dignity of women everywhere. (Nonfiction, Feminism)

In general, the best clue to a nation’s growth
and development potential
is the status and role of women.
– Half the Sky, Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn

Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed reminded me in all the most amazing ways of Glennon Doyle Melton. Cheryl and Glennon both have this wonderful ability to see someone, to really see them, and to speak boldly and lovingly into that someone’s very self, and to challenge and comfort. When you’re doing reading Half the Sky, read Tiny Beautiful Things. (Nonfiction)

My grief is tremendous
but my love is bigger.
Tiny Beautiful Things, Cheryl Strayed

I Will Always Write Back by Caitlin Alifirenka and Martin Ganda with Liz Welch is super endearing. I was bracing myself the whole time for some horrible disaster but nothing came! It’s just the true story of selfless giving that stems from pure friendship. (Nonfiction, Africa)

Searching for God Knows What by Donald Miller is, unfortunately, a book that probably could’ve stayed a blog post. While Miller’s point is a good one – that being a Christian is about a relationship, not a formula – it’s not enough for a whole book. It quickly became repetitive, which made me want to skim, which meant I almost missed some of the good points! Not my favorite from Donald Miller. (Nonfiction, Religious)

I like the Bible. Now that I
no longer see it as a self-help book,
it has infinitely more merit.
It has soul.
– Searching for God Knows What, Donald Miller

LEFT AN IMPRESSION
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Sever by JM Miller was intense! I read it in one day, in two sittings. The story jumps back and forth between past and present, the past informing and explaining the present. The past is basically just a sequence of sex scenes, but I like that the author didn’t try to make a teenage relationship what it wasn’t. The teenagers of Sever acted and talked like teenagers and I appreciated that. (New Adult, Romance)

Stone Alliance is the second in the Demon’s Heart series by Emily H. Bates. I really enjoyed the pace of this book. It keeps moving, there are no unnecessary or prolonged conversations and it makes for a quick and exciting read. I’ll definitely be eagerly awaiting the next installment in the series! (Young Adult, Fantasy)

MEDIOCRE
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The Bookseller by Cynthia Swanson reminded me a lot of The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells only I didn’t really like Greta Wells or her story and I did like Katharyn/Kitty and her story. In fact, I wrote a blog post about it! (Historical Fiction)

The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood was entirely too long. I know that is a common complaint of mine and it’s not because I don’t have the stamina for a long book, it’s just that I don’t have the patience for a lot of words that don’t actually say anything. This one jumped between past and present, like Sever, only Atwood doesn’t clue you in on that and it took me a long time to figure out how the two parts were connected, and by that point I didn’t really care anymore. This was my least favorite of the bunch, which was a disappointment because I loved The Handmaid’s Tale and The MaddAddam series by Atwood. (Historical Fiction)

It wasn’t so easy, though,
ending the war.
A war is a huge fire;
the ashes from it drift far,
and settle slowly.
The Blind Assassin, Margaret Atwood

This Night So Dark by Amie Kaufman is actually a short story but I counted it as one of my 100 books because a while ago I read half of Seveneves by Neal Stephenson, which is justifiably long (881 pages!), unlike some books I know, and then my rental of the ebook expired and I couldn’t get it back because there’s a wait list and now I don’t think I’ll ever go back and finish it. So half of Seveneves + 1 short story = at least 1 book. Anyways, This Night So Dark is part of the Starbound series that I started years ago and am anxious to continue reading. This installment is nothing earth shattering, but it informs the overall narrative. Here’s a story from when I was reading the first book in the Starbound series, These Broken Stars. (Young Adult, Science Fiction)

Armada by Ernest Cline was underwhelming because I recently read Ready Player One and it was awesome. If you are a lover of Science Fiction, though, I’m sure you will enjoy Armada. I was afraid it would be a poor man’s Ender’s Game (of which I am a big fan), but Ender’s Game is referenced a few times in the story, so Cline is nobody’s story mooch. I was also afraid it would be just like Ready Player One because I read that Armada also included a lot of 80s and early 90s references and centered around a video game, but while the two are definitely written in similar styles, they are two completely different stories. (Science Fiction)

More book quotes: Words, Wisdom, etc.

 

I’ve lost weight

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Over the past couple of months I have lost some weight. I’m not sure how much because I don’t own a scale and even if I owned a scale to weigh myself now I’d have no idea how much I weighed before, because I think the last time I weighed myself was 2 Christmases ago. All I know is that in October of 2014 I weighed 240 pounds and that in August 2016 I weigh, well, less than that.

I know I’ve lost weight despite my not owning a scale because my collarbones stick out a bit more, my one pair of jeans that used to be kind of tight are falling off, my feet look skinnier (didn’t know that was a thing), and I can kind of feel my hip bones sometimes. Plus everyone keeps telling me I look skinny.

Accidental weight loss is the only kind I know, since I’ve never had any desire to do the things one generally does in order to lose weight (eating right, exercise, giving up my delicious fountain sodas, etc.). Not to mention the desire to be skinny, which I haven’t felt in years. But since I’ve been so successful at my unintentional weight loss, I thought I’d share my stumbled-upon wisdom, the method to my unanticipated success.

Step 1: Eat a lot of fast food. Like, eat fast food at least once a week for about ten years. Make sure you always get a large Coke/Dr Pepper/Cherry Pepsi.

Step 2: Get a job that doesn’t require a lot of movement. Do a lot of sit down activities. Play a lot of board games. Read a lot of books. Watch a ton of Netflix. This will set the losing weight bar super low.

Step 3: (This is where things start happening!) Move to a city that doesn’t have any fast food restaurants. Become forced to make your own food. Build your diet around cheap and easy options like eggs and pasta and free fruit. You can acquire free fruit by moving to a house with numerous fruit trees and also by being nice enough to the motoconcho drivers that he thinks he might have a shot at dating you so he’ll bring you fruit.

Step 4: Get a new job, a job that requires you to work about twice as hard for about half the money. Even if there were fast food in your new town you wouldn’t be able to afford it! Make sure your new job requires a lot of lifting and is in a building with stairs. Be sure to be easily distracted and forgetful so you have to go up and down the stairs more than necessary.

Steps 3 and 4 really go hand in hand, of course, because once you get home from walking up and down stairs all day the last thing you want to do is cook, so you’ll settle for half a pineapple or two hard boiled eggs with crackers for dinner. The transitional stress will curb your appetite as well, making you want to eat less for at least the first month in your new job/home. Added bonus!

So there you have it. Four easy steps to a lighter, more exhausted, certainly more poor you.

 

i am grateful (for m).

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I am grateful for the mystery of peace, for the way my fears and anxieties and worries and complaints melt away in the presence of magnificent mountains. On the back of a motorcycle, on the way to town, mundane day to day moments are made wonderful by the towering presence of the mountains. They’re right there. They’re steady and immovable and they don’t change. But You tell me my faith can make them jump.

I am grateful for missions. For the people who packed their belongings in coffins because they really did love Jesus more than anything. I am grateful for ministers. For servants and teachers and humble leaders.

I am grateful for my. My my my my. My town, my mountains, my neighbors, my church, my legs that carry me from here to there. I am grateful for a change of pace, for a challenge, for a new mission, a reason to be more.

I am grateful for music. Sweet music. Talented humans with songs in their souls, putting pen to paper, keys to keyboard, fingers to string, to keys, to heart. I am grateful for the notes and the melodies that say things my very self recognizes. I am grateful for the way YouTube will play another full album after the one you’ve chosen, so that I find myself making a bed and hearing these words sung for the first time – If it weren’t for second chances, we’d all be alone. I’m grateful that that’s true. That I’m not alone. That I need another chance. But so do you.

I am grateful for my. My my my my. My house, my stuff, my bed, my dogs, my cats, my boss, my job, my friends, my mom. For my mistakes and the mercy that is marvelously bigger than my mess-ups.

I am grateful for Michaels. They have all taught me how to be bold and better and fearless and fun and myself. (Especially the one who didn’t get it.) I am not to be toned down. I am grateful for modesty when it means exactly what it’s supposed to mean. For magic and make believe and imagination and making things up. For movies! For escape and trying something new. For learning from art.

I am grateful for my. My my my my. My body, my mind, my words, my apologies, my stumblings forward toward something bigger and better. Toward something more.

 

Your life, your feelings

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A friend of mine recently discovered she is pregnant. On the day she found out for sure, she cried. She was bummed. And then, because she is a human woman, she felt guilty for not feeling how she thought she should feel. This baby, this little peanut growing inside of her now, was not planned. She and her husband already have two kids – one girl and one boy. They’re set. This wasn’t the plan.

The first thing I said to her when she confessed all of these feelings – the disappointment, the guilt, the weight of others’ expectations – was this: “You are allowed to feel your feelings. This is your body and your baby. Nobody can tell you how to feel.”

I read a blog post fairly recently written by a parent who tells their child, “Your body, your rules.” I like that. I get to decide what I put on my body, what I put in my body, who touches my body and how, how I feel about my body, what I use it for, what I don’t use it for, etc. Our bodies are the only things that are 100% and essentially and forever ours. Your body, your rules. If you want to feel sad about this crazy and wonderful thing that is happening inside your body, newly pregnant friend of mine, you are allowed. If you want to feel angry about this horrible and terrifying thing that is happening inside your body, newly diagnosed friend of mine, you are allowed. If you want to feel awesome about the gorgeous and strong things happening inside and around and because of your body, plus-sized friend of mine, you are allowed. Your body, your rules.

Additionally and similarly, I like this rule – “Your life, your feelings.” If something big (or small) changes in your life, nobody gets to tell you how you should feel. But might I advise you, friend, as I advised my newly pregnant friend? If what you’re feeling about your body or your life change is negative, don’t get stuck there.

Not long after getting my dog Fred I decided I wanted a second dog so Fred could have a pal. When I finally did get George I took him home and I cried. On the roof of my apartment building with my adorable new puppy and my over the moon excited first puppy, I cried because I realized things were different and they would never be the same as they were pre-George.

This is the story I told my newly pregnant friend, taking care to emphasize pre-story that a puppy is not the same thing as a baby! I told her how I had to take those few moments on the roof to grieve the life that I had with my one dog and acknowledge that that part of my life was nice but that is was over. It’s okay to feel sad when something ends, even if something exciting is beginning. Your body, your rules. Your life, your feelings.

But after the grieving or the sadness or the outrage, we seek joy. We reach for it, we look for it, we surrender to it, we choose it. We take the time we need to cry on the roof, to cry in the kitchen, to look at our beautiful children and realize our time as “family of four” is almost over. We say goodbye and we reminisce. And then we decide to live fully present in the glorious right now. In our bodies and in our lives and in our feelings.