Monday, August 30, 2010

what's in an adventure? pt. 2

Yesterday one of my friends asked me, "What adventures are you engaged in these days?" At the time I had answered that I was in the middle of two fantasy football drafts (Peyton Manning's my QB for both of them - Double Stuf Oreos, anyone?), which is pretty darn adventurous. But if he was asking if I was in the middle of standing atop a mountain in Utah or crashing a jet ski on Lake Erie or spending a homeless day in Atlanta, I wasn't. And I'm not. I think my adventures these days are going to look a lot different than they have for my life in the past.

Adventurous challenge #1: Change.
Then I went down to the potter's house, and there he was, making something on the wheel. But the vessel that he was making of clay was spoiled in the hand of the potter; so he remade it into another vessel, as it pleased the potter to make. Then the word of the LORD came to me saying, "Can I not, O house of Israel, deal with you as this potter does?" declares the LORD. "Behold, like the clay in the potter's hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel."- Jeremiah 18:3-6
I've only been home for a week, but God is already shining His light into the dark places of my life and character. This is humbling and difficult. Hebrews 12:2 tells us to "fix our eyes on Jesus," and in one of my Bibles I have written next to that verse, "Every morning, wake up and pray, 'Lord, make me more like Jesus. Have mercy on me, because I'm not like Jesus.'" I think I wrote that in one of my theology classes with Dr. Anderson, or maybe at a Vineyard church service. I realize, though, that there is a lot in me that needs to change. And change is an adventure, whether it's happening to you or in you.

And so the first thing I want to challenge you with is to practice. A few months ago I was praying for a relationship to be restored, when it occurred to me that no amount of restoration with an earthly relationship was going to make me feel fulfilled if my Heavenly relationship was off-kilter. The same occurred to me this morning when I read 1 Peter 1:14, which says, "As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance." This came at an interesting moment, since just last night before I fell asleep, another friend of mine asked what was challenging about being home, and I replied, "It's humbling to be obedient to my parents again." But I realized that, as I pray for the Lord to lead me and change me, I can practice obedience to Him with my parents. I can practice selflessness to Him and laying down my pride before Him with those I am least likely to feel selfless and most likely to feel prideful around. How can I be expected to love Jesus if I don't even love those who live in the same rooms as I do? Practice your relationship with Jesus in your relationships with others.

Not easy. But adventures are not easy, right? Not all pony rides in May sunshine. But they're worth it, aren't they?
Thursday, August 26, 2010

somebody loves me, I wonder who?

I woke up at 6 this morning, and now that it's 7:30 I'm thinking about taking a nap. Mom put lavender-colored sheets on my bed, and for some reason they are more appealing to sleep in than those of a different color. Pretty soon it'll be time to put on my flannel sheets with little penguins on them, drinking hot chocolate and going ice fishing, and for this I cannot wait. My teddy bear, Gilbert, also cannot wait. This year marks our eighth anniversary of sharing a bed. Dad took him out of the car upon my arrival home on Monday and said, "He's getting flat." Yes, well, he's lived an adventurous life. Adventures tend to flatten us out over time.

Speaking of adventures, the other day Courtney and I were driving down Broadway, coming out of Lexington on our way back from church. We had our windows down and my arm was casually strewn out the passenger-side window, riding the wind like a seal with wings. I turned my head just in time to see a middle-aged man with a gotee lift his own hand in a friendly wave as his car passed ours. I waved back and said, "Hello." Then I turned to Courtney and asked, "Why did that man just wave at us?"
"I don't know," Courtney answered.
"Do you think it's because I have my hand out the window, and he has his hand out the window?"
"Yeah, it was probably like a mutual 'we both have our hands out the window' type wave."

You know, like when motorcyclists wave as they pass each other, because somehow just because you're both on motorcycles, you have a bond. From now on I'm going to wave at people I walk past, because, Hey! I have legs, and you have legs, and we're both walking on them! What are the odds.

Sometimes Courtney and I are willingly naive.

Well, I picked up Courtney's cell phone to change the background to say something that she'd remember me by, and as I did so, I heard a male voice shout, "859-2415!" I looked up to see Mid-Life Crisis Guy's car beside ours. It was a security vehicle. He was shouting his number out his window. I laughed somewhat shocked, nervous, and delighted all at the same time. He called it out again, and this time I called back, "Are you rich?" He veered right for the turning lane as he called back, "I could be!"

Well. See? All those people who tell you that you don't have to find your mate in college were right. They could be driving down the street in a security vehicle right now, just waiting to desperately shout their phone number into your car. I'm keeping my windows down at all times from now on.
Monday, August 23, 2010 what?

After driving 9 hours on 2 hours of sleep with an entire summer of non-stop child-caring-adventure behind me, I'm back in Wisconsin. When I pulled into the driveway, Mom came out to tell me there was spaghetti on the stove, Dad came out to tell me my room was the one on the left at the end of the hall, and then they went back inside and I carried all my stuff in while my brother watched football and said hello to me every time I walked passed the room. Welcome home.

Classes started today, and for the first time in four years, I wasn't sitting in a white classroom looking at pastel sheets of paper with the next 4 months of my life printed on them. Graduating is an odd thing. I didn’t ask to graduate. I didn’t really particularly want to graduate. It’s as if you’re sitting down to dinner one day, and some strange person walks into your kitchen and takes the plate of delicious food away from you, and then says, “Congratulations!” And then he walks away, and you’re left sitting there staring at the blank table in front of you, thinking, “Oh. Well…thank you?”

Sometimes I feel kind of numb, sort of frozen, like those dreams that you wake up from and have to figure out whether they were real or not. And when you realize you aren’t really pregnant or your teeth haven’t really fallen out, you feel such a sense of relief and thankfulness that you’re willing to devote your life to playing with children or something else humane in sheer gratefulness for being alive with teeth. Sometimes I think I’m going to wake up and realize it was all a dream, and I still have two years left, and I will be flooded with that relief and thankfulness. But I’ve woken up in the morning several dozen times since May 8th, and I have yet to discover it was a dream. And so I try to figure out how to leave something I never really wanted to end, and live a completely different life, when I really loved the one I had.

I don’t really know how to do that.

I know college is just a chapter, and if the entirety of The Hobbit was one long chapter of Bilbo making tea in Bag End, not only would that be boring and a waste of paper, but then the volumes of adventure to follow never would have been written. The hard part is turning that last page of The Two Towers before the chapter titled, "The Breaking of the Fellowship." I don't know how to face it. And frankly, I feel very much like that giant stone man in The Never Ending Story, who stares down at his empty hands after the huge wind storm carries away the kids he was holding and says, "They slipped right through my fingers." And I don't know how to move on from here.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

what's in an adventure?

A trip by any other name might sound as sweet....but won't be.

I was thinking about adventures this morning as I sat with God at my college roommates' kitchen table. (I can say things like this now, because we have graduated from college, and they're no longer my roommates. Don't I sound adult?) I had just eaten a peanut butter granola bar for breakfast (thanks, former college roomies) and was waiting for God to say something. He sat there, verbally silent, but looking at me with that look on His face like, "You already know what I'm going to say, so I'm just going to raise one eyebrow at you and wait until you sigh resignedly and write it in your journal." You can tell God and I have this "conversation" a lot.

I've been on a few adventures. Enough, anyway, that I've begun to realize what classifies an experience as an adventure. Is it the circumstances? The destination? The people?

I think the only thing that determines what is an adventure and what isn't, is the attitude of the adventurer. Some qualities of an adventurous attitude:

whatever characteristic ducks have when water rolls of their backs
chocolate covered raisins

An experience without those things is just something to trudge through, withstand, or tolerate. Experiences with those things are pots of gold at the end of the rainbow. You come out of adventures with nuggets - and scars - that you'll take with you for the rest of your life, changing you and shaping you.

I can't say, like Johnny Cash, that I've been everywhere, man. But where I go doesn't determine my adventure. My cousin Christine, married and with two kids, told me yesterday that she envied my situation. I can go wherever and do whatever, for however long, with whomever. It makes me want to pack all my stuff and move to Wyoming or Maine or Canada, since they have free health care.

But this is where God's knowing expression comes in. And I sigh and write in my journal, because I realize why I'm depressed as I think about the un-stability of my life instead of being excited about its adventure. I answer people's questions with, "I have no idea what I'm doing with my life." And therein lies the splinter in my finger, the gaping gorge I'm balancing precariously on the side of and ready to plunge into at the slightest tremor:

It isn't my life.

I realized that for the past 6 months I've been trying to find a vocation that I'd enjoy but would still be serving God. I'm good at that, AND God's involved! I can go there, AND be with my friends AND serve God! But I have it backwards. If my hands are too full of my life, I can't hold onto His robe. If my ears are too full of my own plans, I can't hear His voice calling to me. I need to surrender my plans, my desires, my will, and then the REAL adventure can begin.

He called Andrew to leave his nets.

He called Peter to walk on water.

Talk about adventure!

Bilbo said it best when he said in The Hobbit that adventures are not all pony-rides in May sunshine. And, as my 12-year-old camper from Africa sang in the sweetest voice I've ever heard, it's not going to be easy to leave. But I feel like Moses in Exodus 33, when he tells the Lord, "If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us from here." I'm banking on the Lord's answer here being His same promise to me:

"My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest."
Monday, August 9, 2010

pardon me while I chug a gallon of orange juice

I'm sick. It's the last week of camp, and I'm sick. The doctor today asked me what my symptoms were, and I was expecting her to coddle me and maybe coo a little, or at least put her arm around me and rub my arm. Instead she shoved a swab down my throat to check for strep. I miss my mom.

"Are you congested?"
"All right, let me take a look." Looking. "Yes, it sounds like you're a little stuffy."

Well, yes, I wouldn't have lied.

"Um, yes, a swordfish severed my spine and is stuck between my third and fourth vertebrae."
"Are you lying?"
"Yes. But do you believe that I'm congested?"

On year ago today, I was here:

Dear Utah,
I miss your luscious green hiking trails, blue-faced mountainsides, cool breezes, icy snow-melted water, fields of wildflowers, Presbyterian churches, frozen yogurt shops, symmetrical street numbering system, and best friend:

This afternoon I ventured out of my bed to dinner after a 2-hour nap (my third one of the day). Someone asked me, "Heather, what does this fall bring for you?" I thought that was probably the most adventuresome, expectant, optimistic question I've ever been asked. I like it a lot better than, "What are you doing after this?" What does this fall bring for you? Who knows? I like adventures.

This is me trying to feel optimistic, while feeling very sore-throated, light-headed, homesick, and a little like Huckleberry Finn might've felt when he discovered he was on a boat with a bunch of murderers. I'd rather be with the Widow Douglas, if I had a choice.

I also had a creepy dream the other night that all my campers were sitting in my room waiting to have devotions, and I thought that I had napped through the whole thing. I think it's time for a break now.
Friday, August 6, 2010


Maybe you’ve seen it in the aisle at the grocery store, or in the hallway at church: An angry parent grabbing a disobedient child by his arm and yanking him to the side, getting really close to his face as she disciplines in a low growl. The child is either looking over to the side (which warrants a minute shake from the parent to get his attention) or his face is beginning to contort into an upset, pre-sound cry. I’ve seen it. In fact, this past week I wanted to be that parent. I had so many disobedient 4-year-olds that I want to grab them by the arms, yank them to the side, shake them up, and growl at them to listen to me. Stop disobeying me. You little annoying child.

I realized recently that that’s how I’ve been viewing God. I incessantly choose other things over Him. People. Movies. Books. The outdoors. The internet. And I unknowingly have avoided His Word because I was pretty sure the moment I sat down to it He would grab me by the arms, pull me to the side, and, facing me at eye-level, discipline me. I avoided His Word because I was just not ready to go through the rigmarole yet. As soon as I was prepared to look off to the side as God gave me the lecture of my disobedience, I would come back to Him. I wanted our relationship to be like it once had, but I didn’t want to go through the lecture in order to get the relationship back. And so I have avoided Him entirely.

But this summer I realized that God doesn’t want me back through discipline. The way He wants to restore our relationship is not through telling me how I’ve disobeyed Him. He wants to restore our relationship through wooing me, pursuing me, and alluring me.

This is a foreign concept to me. Most of the past few years I have spent trying to prove to others I am worthy to be loved. Most of my relationships I spend pursuing. Hey. Hey you over there. I’m funny. I’m pretty. I’m talented. See? I’m worth it.

And that’s probably why it’s so hard for me to accept that God wants to do the pursuing. He wants me. He says, “Hey. Hey you over there. See me? I love you. You’re beautiful. I want you. You’re worth it.” In sunsets, in mountains, in rivers, in raindrops, and in His love letters to us, He says,

“I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness. (Jeremiah 31:3) Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you, I will give men in exchange for you, and people in exchange for your life. (Isaiah 43:4) I demonstrate my own love for you in this: Long before you were beautiful, I sent Jesus to die for you. (Romans 5:8) Because I want you back.”

Our response:

O my God, because Your love is better than life, my lips will glorify You. (Psalm 63:3)


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