What is? What can be?

“That basement could have been a prison to him,” mom said, “but he chose not to view it that way.”

We were cuddled up on the couch (with coffee) watching the Book Thief. The plot involved a Jew named Max, hiding from soldiers in Nazi Germany by living in a dark, cold basement. He painted the sun on the wall when he missed it, and taught the main character, Liesel, how to be a writer.

Photo by Scott Robinson

Photo by Scott Robinson

As we continued watching the movie the theme kept reoccurring. In a bomb shelter, as the people huddled, quaking with fear, explosions heavy in the background, an old man played an accordion as cheerfully as possible—relieving the strain in the atmosphere. Later, Liesel did the same thing by telling stories. In each circumstance the characters chose to face despair, head on, using their talents to brighten the world and dispel gloom.

A couple years ago I confided in an old mentor of mine that I felt trapped—like the best years of my life were behind me. My sister and brother had moved away. My career path had stalled. I was still living at home. And despite the uptick in social activities, I was desperately lonely.

The silence grew heavy, as the tiny white gravel of a garden path crunched loudly under our feet. He paused between the hydrangeas and stone angels. “Every day…” the concern in his eyes had been replaced with firm confidence. “Every day when you get up and put your feet on the floor, say to yourself, I’m free.” He opened his arms, palms up, “I’m free.”

He was right. I wasn’t really trapped. I was just afraid of taking a risk or two.

But, years later, I find I’m still good at building prisons for myself…

“I can’t be as good as…”

“It would take a miracle for…”

“Am I normal?”

“I’ll never be able to…”

These phrases slip out seamlessly, and I give no thought to the kind of damage they do. Not only to me, but to everyone around me. Every word is a cinder block. Every sentence an iron bar. (Not that venting is always bad. It has its time and place.)

But, self-limiting assessments are not the full story. They do not reflect reality in the broader, fuller sense.

 

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. Romans 5:3-5

That’s the truth. Trials and disappointments are actually strengthening my hope of salvation.

Instead of looking only at what is–ask what can be?

Freedom is playing an accordion in a bomb shelter. Freedom is recognizing your gifts and then using them to dispel gloom. Freedom is knowing, deep in your heart, that you’re a child of the King of Kings—and no matter who you are in this world, your heavenly calling is glorious.

You are free to walk in your calling.

How are you using your freedom?


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IBLP, ATI, Mr. Gothard…and Me

Bill Gothard is a Christian teacher who’s best known work is the Basic Seminar put on through the Institute in Basic Life Principles…(IBLP), wherein he lays out seven principles for overcoming basic youth conflicts. This seminar became extremely popular and packed out stadiums in the 70s and 80s. There’s some pretty good points in there. Things like, you need to accept yourself the way you are because God made you and He loves you. Things like, you need to show respect for your parents. Things like, you need to realize that God owns everything ultimately and you are a steward of the things he gives you. Well, Mr. Gothard met a demand for the Christian homeschooling movement of the 90s by providing curriculum known as Wisdom Booklets through the Advanced Training Institute (ATI). So far, so good.

Alright, down to it then.

When my older sister started struggling in school, my parents decided to try homeschooling. Emi did great. More than great, she excelled. (She is in fact a brilliant test taker–can pass them almost without studying for them.)  Well, being only four years behind, they decided to try it with me too. Not quite a great as sis. But, fairly decent, if I do say so myself.

Soooo how did we get involved in ATI?

One of a parent’s more basic concerns when their children are young are the types of friends they make. A friendship is a big influencer on a kid’s life. So, naturally, they sought out kids that would be good playmates for us.

The kids with the best attitudes, the best grades, the best clean-cut fun were, by and large, the ATI kids. They were Christians, they were memorizing Bible verses, they were respectful to their parents, they were mannerly, they were…quite near perfect.

Basically, I wouldn’t know where my life would be right now if my parents had not joined ATI…it was literally integrated into every part of me. (This was a conscious choice on my part. Nobody had to push me into trying to achieve things…I’m a natural go-getter.) So, I filled out the faith journal (read the Bible front to back and write a commentary on it.) I filled out the virtue journal (memorize all the 49 character qualities and their definitions and demonstrate how you have applied them to your life.) I filled out the knowledge journal (read the wisdom booklets…and somehow document it.) I filled out the Commands of Christ Journal (more memorization and application proof.) I worked hard at capturing every thought that entered my head, (per the instructions at the Counseling Seminar) and analyzing it to see if it was sinful.

Well, you get the point.

And I had all the certificates.

I was Super Christian. (And yet, no person from the ministry ever received a divine revelation of how holy I had become and then invited me on the stage to share my profound wisdom with others…it was deeply disappointing.)

Please, please, I can hear the snickering. It’s something I’m not really proud of now.

Anyway…if I were to put this all on a balance sheet, I would say that the pros outweigh the cons. Was I a legalistic little pharisee with life alllll figured out? Yep.

Did I learn a lot of scripture that kept me from dangerous traps growing up? Yep. In fact, having that much Bible as the backbone of your upbringing is an extreme blessing!  I fall back on it multiple times a day. It’s never going anywhere. That’s a real comfort.

I made a lot of dear, godly friends. I discovered my passion in life: writing. I had the benefit of girls’ retreats which were amazing fun…and it was at one of these retreats that I really understood for the first time that I was faking it when it came to loving God. That was perhaps the most significant day of my spiritual walk. So, yes. The ministry has touched and affected my life in positive ways.

But, looking back, I’m acutely aware that I idolized Mr. Gothard too much. I mean, it was easy to think that he was the holiest man to have walked the planet since the apostles. Really, it was. When Recovering Grace started their website, I thought at first it was just a bunch of rebels who just didn’t get it. Who weren’t willing to do the hard work holiness requires and were just trying to throw mud at the organization. But, now. I can’t ignore it any more. 34 women have come forward with allegations of sexual harassment (oh, don’t get excited. It’s nothing explicit…just footsie and a little fondling…but in the culture of ATI where moral purity was valued above all else, it’s wickedly perverse.) People who are my personal friends, people I trust, have verified that there’s truth to it.

I feel…almost like someone died. Yes. I feel like grieving, but why, I don’t know. Maybe I feel like grieving because so many people were misguided for so long. Good people, like my parents, who invested their lives and their money into this ministry, only wanting the best for their kids, have been slapped in the face and lead down a twisted trail of distortion. This is what they got for doing the very best they could. Just sickening.

The man had too much power. I remember him standing on a stage surrounded by about thirty thousand people at the Thompson Bowling Arena in Knoxville, TN, just soaking in the crowd. Soaking in their attention. If I could see him there now, with the eyes of a law-office hardened 26 year old woman, (not the wide-eyed innocence of 14) I wonder if I would see the truth. It’s likely that I wouldn’t. A lot of smart, and very wonderful christian men and women were deceived by this man.

I’ve been aware of the rampant legalism for some time. Probably for the last twelve years I’ve been scoffing at some of the more ridiculous taboos. (Calf length skirts ALL the time…are you kidding me? And, my personal favorite, no toenail polish.) But, you know, I was willing to see beyond it and appreciate the good things the organization had brought into my life: the people, the Bible, the commitment to excellence, etc. But, as time has gone on, the faith in the good will of the ministry has eroded.

The switch in my brain, the part where I started analyzing the ministry outside of a preconceived notion that everything sanctioned by them was gospel came sometime in my mid teens, late one night, with my family, in the car, in the pouring down rain. I can still remember the pounding of that rain on the windshield. The frantic pulse of the wind shield wipers keeping time as my father…the man I adore and admire more than any other person…firmly and emphatically condemned the words that had just come out of my mouth.

I had been criticizing some kids who had performed a musical number because they had done it with a rock beat. Clearly evil.

My dad, God bless him, saw what was happening and he put a stop to it. Right then. Right there.

I can’t remember exactly what he said, but he did leave me with the *crystal* clear understanding that God was closer to the publican than the pharisee. And that, in reality, we are all publicans. Those too arrogant to realize it are a scourge on the world…or something like that.

That night, he snipped a thread of the tapestry and it began unraveling. From that moment on, I started using my brain. I started trying to understand the concepts behind the verses I read, not just the words. I began looking to see how my dad (one of the most authentic men you’ll ever meet) was living out his Christian walk. I think my dad saved my life.

It’s interesting in law school right now, I’m learning about damages, and all the formulas that apply to calculate damages for buyers and sellers and for injured people and family members of people who die….damages. Formulas.

Sometimes, the courts talk about how wrong it is to reduce someone’s drastically altered life to a dollar amount. How can you put a number on a disfigured face? Well, truth is, there’s just no other way. In our broken way, man can only come up with formulas to bring balance, to restore. That’s what Gothard did. He would give us safe and secure formulas. 5 principles to this or 7 steps for achieving this or 10 reasons why…Anyway, supposedly if you mastered all this, you would have the perfect life. Well, ain’t no such thing. Life is necessarily a broken mess. Paul’s was a mess. Peter’s too. Mr. Gothard’s formulas are flimsy when you stand at the receptionist window at a law office and come face to face with the effects of real evil affecting real lives. There is no such thing as a perfect life. Until you are broken on the reality of life, the comfort and companionship of the Holy Spirit is held cheaply. Although the formulas feel safe. They’re illusionary and driven by fear, designed to give people insulated constructs to be holy in.

I wonder how many people I’ve hurt with my superior attitudes over the years. I’m deeply ashamed of being “too holy” to really love them. It was so empty. So exhausting. Now that I’ve gotten a taste of how beautiful life is walking in the pure grace of Christ, I’m never, ever going back. As one of my former ATI friends has said: Instead of a “new approach to life” give me the old, old story of Jesus and His love.

 

 

 

 

 

 


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But If You Refuse…

The ultimatum.

Three young men stood before the most powerful man on earth, under guard, muscles tense, adrenaline pumping as their lives hung by a thread. Then the king said, “If you refuse to bow down to the statue, you will be thrown into the blazing furnace. And then what god will be able to rescue you from my power?”

Stunning, isn’t it? Of course, Shadrach Meshach and Abednego knew where their allegiance stood.

fire

They knew that even though their circumstances were grossly unfair, and it would be reasonable to just do a little outward conformity in order to fight another day, they knew a cosmic line had been crossed. Sustaining physical life required spiritual death, but they were not going to sell out.

My ultimatums don’t come in the form of the Great King Nebudchadnezzar threatening to throw me into the furnace. Yet, his sinister question still surfaces in the toilsome aspects of the day-to-day. “Bow down, give in to fleshly desires, jealousy, and ambition. If you don’t, what god will be able to rescue you from Loneliness? Fear? Failure?”

And day in and day out, it is my choice. Do I recognize that the cosmic line has been crossed? Nope. Not always. But, when the Holy Spirit shows me that I’ve been presented with such an ultimatum, it’s my choice.

May God grant me the grace to live spiritually alive trusting that my God is able to save me, even if I must be thrown into circumstances I dread. I have His promise that He will be in the midst of that furnace with me.


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Skating and What Came Of It

Ice skating. Hmmm. Apparently, at some point in human history, some person decided strapping sharp blades to the bottom of your feet and venturing onto a slippery surface was a good idea. Well, it was. Ice skating is widely loved and heralded by young and old alike as a favorite winter activity. I can see why it’s popular. There’s a brisk freedom in gliding through the air, feeling a breeze on your face, watching the world whir by.

I got a glimpse of that. Mostly, I shuffled around the rink, flailed my arms in awkward little flaps, gave warning calls of impending collisions, and watched my class mates whiz by with great ease and aplomb. As I practiced shifting my weight, and doing all the things I’d been told to do by the more experienced, I had time to reflect on how I wound up in this precarious situation.

I’m not good at ice skating. Part of me just wants to ignore things I’m not good at. (You can’t be an expert at everything.) But, the rink is there, it’s free, and if I’m ever going to get better at it, I’ll just have to do it. So, I decided to stir things up a bit, stretch out of my comfort zone, be vulnerable, and grow…or rather, stumble along in the general direction of forwards. It helped that I had a friend to lean on when I got tired.

Over break I found to my shock that I wasn’t the same person who’d left home in August. I had grown, but the old parts of my life had stayed the same. They hadn’t grown with me.

It’s awkward, this period of readjusting, of bringing parts of my old life into balance with the new skills and new thought processes I’ve developed. Basically, God has stirred things up a bit. Scary? Yeah. Unbalanced? Yeah.

Funny, I found that on my skates, if I was hesitant and cautious, it was more difficult to balance. But, if I struck out with confidence, it was easier…scarier, but easier.

Life will continue to shift and change. But I can be assured that my confidence in God is not misplaced. He’ll balance me. He’ll let me lean on Him. Even though many things are new, He is still the same.

So, then. Forward! (Or, in the alternative, the general direction of forwards.)

(PS: You don’t have to turn around every time someone calls your name.)

(PPS:  “Taking it on the chin” has a whole new meaning for me.)

 

 

 


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Loves Like a Hurricane, I am a Tree

HurricaneI crouched in a ball, weeping in front of a slip of paper as someone stood on stage softly singing David Crowder’s “How He loves us.” There, at the ladies only 80’s night hosted by a neighboring church roughly two years ago, a sore topic reared its head like an ugly storm, and I got honest with God.

I felt Joanie’s arm cross my shoulder. Yes, she was my boss, but she was my sister in Christ too. It was okay. I wept on.

Really, I had prayed the thing out. There was little more to be said. There was only my stagnant life–my life as the forgotten “good girl” who would never ever realize her dreams. The lady leading the service had said to write down our biggest burdens on the papers and then give them to God…and that was the struggle.

The music swelled. “He loves us! Oh, how He loves us!”

I let it soak in.

Questions came: Do you need to have God plus something else? Is God alone enough? 

My mind and my spirit agreed that the true answer was that God alone can satisfy. My humanity cried out for answers, and I’m sure this little barb came from the pit of hell–“What kind of God refuses to reward faithfulness?”

But, the truth is, there is only one source of true love, and only one perfectly wise Father who measures and dispenses with perfect timing the blessings and trials to transform his children into the likeness of Jesus Christ. Only He can work all things together for the good of those who love Him. God didn’t owe me a single thing. I was the one indebted forever.

I realized I’d been looking for blessings in His hand instead of seeking the blessing of beholding His face.

I picked up the paper with the single word scrawled on it and walked to the front of the church and left it at the altar with the burdens of the four hundred other women.

The word on my paper was–future.

He certainly has done amazing things in my life since that day; the best part being that He’s given me a deeper love for Him.

Whatever your word is, leave it in God’s hands, and look to His face. He loves us. Oh, how He loves us.

 

 

 

 


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Blessed are the Lonely…

It must have been interesting to sit on a hillside in Israel. To feel a light breeze as the words of Jesus carried over the hillside. To feel a spark of anticipation. Jesus was going to say something profound. Something incredible. Everyone had been buzzing about what a great teacher He was, how deep his insights were. Some said he was the Messiah. The Messiah! The one that would redeem Israel. Yes, this man revived hopes and dreams…and then…He said something weird. Something unexpected. Something counter-intuitive.

Girls at Christmas

Blessed are the poor in spirit. Blessed are they that mourn. Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.

(Not blessed are those who have found a good and godly husband/wife. Blessed are they who get a nice house in the suburbs, put up the best Christmas decorations, throw the best parties, make the best dishes, and give the best presents….and sing like angels.)

Not that any of that isn’t blessed or good. I’m the happy beneficiary of some extremely talented people who’ve spread a lot of joy and cheer by their parties and food. (Mmmm Cheeseballs.)

It’s just that humility, mourning, and hunger…is not exactly fun. Why, then, is it blessed?

Because it is only satisfied in Christ.

If you are entering the Christmas season and you’re lonely, know that you are blessed. Your unfixable circumstance, the great void in your heart, is a homing beacon for the ministry of the Holy Spirit. He is close to the broken.

If you’re lonely, then you and Jesus have a lot in common. If there was ever anyone who could honestly claim that no one understood what He was going through, it would have been Christ. There’s a reason why He is called the “Man of Sorrows.”

If you’re lonely, your spiritual senses have been sharpened. In the practice of fasting, someone goes without food and then, when they feel the hunger pains, they turn it into a prayer, a prayer of longing for God. They take the physical longing and transform it to a spiritual longing. While your loneliness may not be self-imposed, it’s still like fasting, it’s still a desire that can be transformed into a spiritual longing. And God is more than eager to meet you in that empty void, and bear it with you.

And, often, when I’m that position, He turns me around and points to someone else…someone I’d never suspect…and as I watch them, somehow I know, I just know they need a word of encouragement.

Blessed are the lonely…for God uses empty vessels.

He does.

And although, it feels at times like no one sees or understands, the reality is that this physical world is just part of the story. Although on earth there wasn’t much of a celebration being thrown for the birth of the Savior of the world, (Mary and Joseph were outcasts after all) there was a multitude of heavenly hosts heralding the event.

The actions you take may not ever be noted or recognized here on earth, but you better believe, it’s never missed when you glorify the King of Kings and Lord of Lords with your life. Nothing is wasted.


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Unfinished Thankfulness…

I have not forgotten my commitment of November Thankfulness. Due to final exams I had to bow out and concentrate on studying rather than getting distracted with social media leaving 14 days in November full of unthankfulness (at least officially.) And, since Christmas has seemed to hang in suspension, I’m still wrapping up the Thanksgiving feeling.

So here goes…14 things. Warning: long post. You’re welcome to skim to a heading that catches your interest.

1. Sleep. 

During finals weeks, I found myself exhausted, and yet, when I climbed into bed, I couldn’t sleep. I felt like I had unfinished business, like I couldn’t go to sleep because I hadn’t cemented enough in my brain yet. Multiply that and compound it across ten days.

Yes, sleep is a glorious thing. That blessed unconsciousness where you relax leaving your troubles and cares for God to hold while your body resets. You assimilate what you learned, reprogramming for future events. You heal yourself from any bumps bruises or strenuous workouts. Plus, there is the dreaming part. I like going on unannounced crazy adventures that are incredibly life like. Way cool.

2. That aching feeling you get when you say goodbye. 

Over Thanksgiving break I went home to Statesville. It happened to coincide with my family’s last week there, and our last Sunday there. We started going to Grace Alliance Fellowship 16 years ago, I was 1o. Pastor Wall, and the people of that small fellowship were influential in forming the way I view God and life.  They talked to me about how to live, but they showed me. That last Sunday, Pastor Wall looked at our family, and, as he often does, brought up a question I’ve often thought of, but haven’t quite thought out.

Why is it that we get that aching feeling when we say goodbye? Why is there that pain of separation?

His answer? Because when we love one another it binds us together, so that when we have to leave, its actually tearing apart something that’s been bound up. (Law students reading this please, please get your brains out of Civil Procedure…you’re on break.) When we follow the “one-anothers” that Christ commanded, it works to form a bonded body of Christ…so that’s why it hurts.

That explains why it was hard to leave my old job too. Narelle, Kristi, Joanie…my friends…my sisters in Christ. Tough to leave that.

So, yes, I’m grateful for that aching feeling I have about separating and going on to a new chapter in life, that ache means that we love one another. Although it’s bittersweet, it’s precious and dear.

 

3. Mousetraps

As I sat upstairs in the fortress of solitude (formerly the writing garret ala Little Women), studying my brains out, I heard rustling noises behind the wood paneling. LOUD rustling noises. I’m easily distracted, so I didn’t appreciate it. Since grandma, dad, and mom lived down stairs predominantly (I was the only person who spent hours on end up there) they hadn’t been up patrolling for mice. Well, I made my peace with it and studied through. That is, until the paneling started to move. One board quivered. And quivered. And quivered. All I could do was sit in stone cold disbelief, unwilling to believe what I saw with my own two eyes. The board popped out from the wall and a beady-eyed, grayish, ugly mouse with the thinnest most naked and unbelievably disgusting tail I’d ever seen emerged from the dark depths of the netherworld beyond the paneling.

I did not scream.

But I did pull my feet up on top of the chair, and randomly stressed about how quickly a mouse can climb chair legs. And reader, despite my love of Jerry Mouse, and Stuart Little, and that little mouse in the Tale of Despereaux (I forget his name, bless me,) I actually set two vicious-minded traps and slew two mice during that week. I call them Romeo and Juliet.

But, I had to study.

4. Unconditional love

When I think of unconditional love, I think of my mother. No matter how selfish or rude or fussy I am, my mother loves me fiercely through it all. I don’t deserve the kind of love she gives. She’s always willing to forgive. Always behind me. Always ready to encourage me and cheer me on to the goal I’m striving toward. She’s the one who’s taught me the most about loving someone even after they’ve hurt you. All of this came back to me when I saw the decorated basket full of goodies and my favorite variety of apples for me to eat up in the fortress of solitude. That food spoke. It said, “Hi Lily-Bea! Welcome home! Your mother loves you incredibly, unconditionally, and she wants to help you study as happily as possible!”

I’m looking forward to spending lots of quality time with her over the break. :-)

5. Reddi Whip

Now, as you may recall, the parents and grandma were BUSY packing up the house for the move. Thus, a traditional thanksgiving meal with turkey and all the fixings was DEFINITELY out of the equation. Thankfully, my former piano teacher and good friend, Mrs. Anderson invited us to her house for Thanksgiving dinner. Thus, I abandoned the books for a few hours and enjoyed the company of some humans over a luscious feast of amazing food. But, the best part was when my adopted-for-the-evening-grandpa offered to make coffee. He couldn’t find any cream, but saved the day by proudly producing a can of Reddi-whip for me to liberally dispense on top of my steaming hot beverage.

It was the best coffee I’d ever tasted. 😉

6. Little Brother(s)

Now, you all know that I absolutely adore Josh. We are two peas from the same pod. But, it seems that I also have a crop of adopted little brothers back home. It was good to be with them again. It was so much fun that I even cut up with them in Sunday School. Steve Johnson gave us a look, one of THOSE looks. “Lily-Bea, they are quiet, when you’re not around!”

No defense. I had to give my *angelic face shrug* in response to that.

Aside from the cutting up, I enjoyed talking with them about the tough things going on in their lives too. I enjoy being their “big sis” and I’m rooting for all of them! I’m grateful for the way they find the humor in life…and I’m grateful that they willingly hop to and clean up the messes I make by being my clumsy self without giving me tooo much grief about it. Bless you, fellas!

7. My classmates

My former boss Seth told me that I’d be just fine in law school when I found some people to share my pain. He was right. Law school became way more fun as soon as I became friends with this fabulous group of girls. They are so smart and committed to God. They inspire me to do my best, point out things I’ve forgotten, challenge me to work through my thinly-reasoned thoughts, and encourage me to persevere. I never faced a challenge like this before, so, it stands to reason that I’ve never had friends like this before. I’m grateful for them.

8. Music

God is amazing. Only God could create something like music. I love how it can reach into your soul and connect with you on a deep level. I love that musicians can communicate their emotions, ideas, and even a message through their music, even without lyrics. I like that best. When I understand what the musician is saying to me without a word being spoken. I can’t wait to hear the music of heaven. Notably, it was a great help to turn up some epic tracks to motivate me through the dark days of contracts. There is this one motivational video that I kept repeating…don’t know if I’d have gotten through without it. So, yes, I’m grateful for the versatile gift of music. There’s nothing in this world is quite like it.

9. Whiteboards

Around the end of October, I realized I had barely used the humongous over-sized whiteboard hanging on my wall. I was too busy reading and typing up case briefs. I felt guilty about that. Guilt no more! I spent hours and hours in front of my white board over the last two weeks, writing and rewriting rules. I love whiteboards because they save paper, and saving paper saves trees, and I love trees. On another note, the squeaky marker sound is fun. Further, I can draw goofy things on the white board and then erase the evidence. What’s not to love? It’s a forgiving playground for the mind.

10. Analysis–focus

I never thought I’d be grateful for analysis. It’s kind of clunky and redundant. That said, I’ve grown to appreciate it. I’ve always been a girl to try and make things as stream lined as possible. Conclusions were fine by me. But, the more I think about it, the more I realize that by failing to provide the reasoning for my conclusions, I’m doing a disservice to the people around me. I’m asking them to rely on what I said, only because I said it. In many ways, it’s more respectful and more intellectually honest to provide reasons behind my conclusions to allow others the freedom to agree or disagree with me.

It’s also taught me a lot about focus. I tend to see the world as very interconnected. I can connect abstract ideas quickly with little thought to the actual process. This makes it challenging to stay inside a little mental box containing a rule with application to a set of facts. But, in practicing this kind of controlled focus, it’s made me a more balanced person. I can honestly say now that I’m able to hone in on a set of words and analyze through their implications in a whole different way then before  I started law school. It’s incredible. I’m so grateful for the opportunity God has given be to be stretched like that.

11. Playtime

The other day I was thinking about all the backyard games I used to play when I was a kid. Cowboys and Indians. Lone Ranger and Tonto. Cops and robbers. Rescue-the-Princess-from-the-Evil-Scalawag (ok that’s not an official game, but I bet you played it too.) I remember acting like we were Native American Indians and building teepees and scavenging for “food” and “medicine.”

Strange that those days are so far behind me.

Sometimes I get glimpses of the glory days when I’m called upon to watch some group of unassuming kids. They think they’re going to be plunked in front of a movie, or they’ll be subjected to playing a board game they’ve play fourteen times before. Hardly.

Kids have the most fun because they’re not afraid to use their imaginations in play time (unless it’s been wiped clean by a brain washing alien technology called electronics.) I love playing with kids who haven’t lost the ability to play, like Andy in Toy Story, so I always give kids the option of losing the constraints of someone else’s version of play and exploring their own fun. I’m grateful that my parents fostered this in me, and let me go play outside as often as they could (not as much as I wanted, but as much as was good for me.) :-)

It helps you to develop a sense of humor. To work out moral dilemmas with your playmates. To learn sportsmanship. To learn courage. To learn bravery.  It’s all of this and a good work out too.

12. Surrender

I’m grateful that in the hardest, most complex moments of life, it often comes down to a simple choice: surrender. Give up pride. Give up control. Give up the fear. Just melt into the arms of Jesus. That’s all. Surrender. I’m so grateful for this one truth, and the deep peace it brings. Pride and the Spirit of God have trouble being in the same place. Pride is naturally opposed to God and everything He stands for. But, it’s an integral part of my sin nature and it fights God’s plan for me…tooth and nail. It fights day in and day out. That’s why surrender, or humility, is so important. In order to live in peace, I must surrender, almost moment-by-moment, laying my life and my will at the feet of Jesus. And, when I put myself in His hands and I ask Him, “so, what are we doing today, Lord?” those are invariably the best days of my life.

13.  Words

I had this “zoning out” moment in front of my white board. I don’t know how many hours I’d been there, but suddenly, I stopped seeing the words I was writing. I only saw the individual letters. The E, the X, another E…whoa. These little characters. I use so many of them. But, oh my…they are amazing. These little characters placed next to each other mean things. They transform ideas into something physical that can be seen, comprehended, and appreciated. They have the power when put together just so to influence world leaders! They are like little parts that form complex components. The mechanics of the written language just totally blew me away.

Further…when you must memorize hundreds of rules, your mind gets into a groove. I began to apply things I learned from piano theory to the chunks of written texts. The sentences had key words and phrases that acted like chords, anchors for the rest of the filler words. As long as those filler words were in the same “key,” the pattern usually came out okay. See…words are so cool.

I know it was a sad, sleep deprived moment, but if you think for just one second what the world would be like without being able to read and write…you’ll understand the moment. I’m grateful for these little characters in the alphabet. I love each and every one of them. 😀

14. Christmas

Okay. Christmas. Can I tell you a secret? You deserve to know a secret for reading all the way to the end of this epic-long post. Here it is…I think Easter should be the bigger holiday. I can get into the Easter Spirit (if there is such a thing) much easier. That said, there is a very profound meaning to Christmas that commands my awe and gratitude.

Yes, Jesus coming to earth in human form was…beyond mind blowing. But, ever since I really began to ponder the meaning behind Christmas, the more I feel like it was a moment of utter, broken, humility. God as a baby. Babies are helpless. For the first time, God the Son was utterly dependent on human beings. There’s something deep inside me that recoils at this. I don’t have words to describe how incomprehensible it is that the God who formed the galaxies, who breathed life into dust to make man, who orchestrated the seasons, who masterminded the great story of man in the space of time here on earth, actually became one of us. It doesn’t seem fitting. It doesn’t seem right. It almost makes me want to cry. Sometimes I do.

Yet, that is God’s way. That is why I find Christmas attractive. Professor Lucas said earlier in the semester–Christ came as the servant of all. If we are servant’s of Christ, what on earth is there to be puffed up about?

God’s very nature is to give, to love, to abandon glitz and glamour, to reach out to people where they are. To cross the great divide between relationships, to mend, and to heal. He lowered Himself as low as He possibly could to do it.

That is what Christmas means to me. It means Christ is my example. Christmas is my chance to not insist on having things the way they “should be” (a fine palace for the King of Kings rather than a manger in a stable) but to accept what is, and to reach outside myself to love other people–even and especially the hard ones to love.

I’m grateful for Christ’s incredible act. For his determination to repair the relationship lost in Eden no matter the cost.

Merry Christmas Everybody!


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Just Practice? I Don’t Think So.

MH900430590Rudy is one of the best motivational films ever made, but my favorite part isn’t when the priest sums up philosophy with “there is a God and I am not Him.” It isn’t when the crowd chants Rudy’s name, pressuring the coach to do the right thing. It isn’t the end when they carry him off the field. My favorite scene from that movie is when Rudy is on the practice field. Knocked down, time after time after time, he doesn’t quit. He just won’t quit. Then he sacks the much taller quarterback, and the QB throws a tantrum, angry that Rudy is “playing like it’s the Superbowl.”

It was annoying, I’m sure. It was just practice, after all.

The coach’s response? “If you had a tenth the heart of Rudy, you’d be an All American instead of third string. And now you’re on the prep team.”

That’s my favorite scene because life isn’t a Superbowl. It’s daily practice. It takes heart and determination. Even if you’ve got no prospect of ever becoming a big name, show up, and don’t ever quit—you’ll make your corner of the world a better place, and you might just sack the people who’ve abandoned their potential. “There are many people relying on you, many of whom you’ve not met yet.” – Woody Shoemaker.


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Recent Events: Excerpts from Life

Fall Break: Sneezed approximately every other minute on the way home while listening to a torts lecture about the reasonable standard for driving reasonably. Well, anyway, I didn’t wreck. Good thing. Mom promptly gave me about five different pills to swallow along with zicam lozenges and by morning I was completely better. Good thing. I had mid-terms to study for.

Traveled to Asheville with mom to check out dad’s new work place and house hunt. Dad’s temporary housing (aka hotel) was interesting. It has some conference center space, so there was a convergence of the red hat society, the international association of pawn brokers, and a collegiate mountain bike meet. It made for fascinating elevator rides. I think it would have been amusing for them to play musical events. I’d love to see the spandex people playing bingo and the red hat ladies on the mountain bikes…just saying.

House hunting:  Mom and dad are looking for something quiet and mini-farm-esque. Think trickling creek and great view. This necessitated hitting some mountain roads and gravel drives. The hill country is full of drivers who do not believe in the double yellow line. Our realtor has a very cute scream. It’s the first time I was ever grateful that mom drives so slowly.

Nothing looks particularly homey yet, so they’re still looking, and driving slowly. :-)

Mid Terms: But, I went back to school and took the mid term examination. Five one-hour tests in one day. It started out with a hiccup. Halfway through the exam my computer decided to do Windows updates. Yes, updates. Shut down. Reboot. The whole bit. Thankfully, Eric Kistler, the congenial bald man from the library full of helpful chuckles and assuring pronouncements was on hand to get the testing program back on track. Therefore, marginally miffed, I set about slaying the great dragon of personal jurisdiction in civil procedure in the time remaining, and I finished. But, we’ll see how dead it really is tomorrow when the grade comes out.

The rest of the tests clicked by without too much drama. I’m glad for the chance to see how I’m doing and adjust course if necessary.

Oh, almost forgot. When mom and I drove back from Asheville, three bears crossed I-40 right in front of us. A mama bear (presumably) and two baby bears. They looked up at us with the most plaintive, terrified expressions…honestly. Terrified. Mom had to swerve to the emergency lane to miss little junior bear. Thankfully the traffic in the left lane and behind us figured out what was happening and slowed to a crawl. One thing’s for sure, that mama bear is not smarter than the average bear.

Gotta say. I’m glad mom drives slow. 😉

TTFN

 


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Crossroads for the Future–Where it All Comes Together

Living in one small city for twenty-six years–all twenty-six years of your life (I’m including my college years because I was domiciled in North Carolina) gives you strong roots like a great oak tree. I know the streets of that city like I know my own face. There’s a rhythm to life there. The changing seasons bring about the same events year after year: the Harvest Festival, the Hot Air Balloon Festival, the Pumpkin Fest, the church Christmas Program, the annual “blizzard” of one inch of snow and two inches of ice that shuts down the city for three business days, and the Fourth of July Fireworks at Signal Hill Mall which are always set off on the Third.

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Then there are the people of Statesville: I love my fellow townspeople. The UPS guy, the mail guy, the Fed-Ex guy, Aaron and Paula the Subway sandwich artists, Sam at Starbucks, and Ginger at the bank, Jody at Daylight Donuts (who chronically accidentally-on-purpose slips extra donuts in my order) my church family, and good ole One Shot Johnson, the County Commissioner who teaches Sunday School and delivers moral axioms such as, “Never go back and check on a dead skunk.” He also prays for me on Tuesdays. :-)

And the law office–that place shaped the course of my life and transformed me from a girl to a woman.

I’m not just saying all of this because I moved to Lynchburg and I’m homesick. I’m saying it because my dad just got a new job in Asheville and my family will be moving in a few short months.

It’s sad, and I do feel like grieving a little. Should I talk about all the childhood memories? Should I talk about the misadventures? Should I talk about the homeschooling group? I don’t know.

It’s painful to separate from this community. But, here’s the balm.

Dad’s new job is a big blessing and a HUGE answer to prayer. God has heaped mercy upon mercy to answer this prayer, and when God moves like this, it’s impossible not to be amazed and grateful.

Statesville, I’ll never forget you. I’m thankful for the strong roots. And, I’ll come back whenever I can.

 


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