Sunday, August 31, 2008


The word equilibrium has been finding me everywhere I turn.

In uncle's blogs and anatomy books and Sunday morning messages.

This morning at Southland, Jon was talking about community. About how by not living in community, we are denying our purpose. We are denying the purpose we were created for.

Shalom. We all have heard this word - the greeting. We know it as meaning "peace be with you" or "go in peace".

Jon unpacked this Hebrew word this morning. We translate it in english as one of those two phrases. But translated literally, it means "equilibrium". A balance. Nothing missing. Nothing broken.

We, the church, are an "outpost of the kingdom of heaven". The force that restores balance. There is peace in heaven. There is peace found in our Father. If we are called to bring heaven to earth, and are created in His image, this is our calling.

I was sitting in church, thinking about this. Thinking about what happens when our equilibrium is thrown off.


Faster and faster.

And something makes us stop.

And we fall over.


Nothing makes sense. We lose our direction. We lose our bearings.

As the church, we are called to take the shoulders of the dizzy, hold the faces of the disoriented. Calm their spinning worlds. Bring the pieces back together in acts of restoration.

Until the fluid in our spiritual ears is brought back to balance.

How often do we find ourselves without shalom?

Without peace. In a broken place. Dizzy and wobbling, wishing the world wouldn't spin so fast.

Shalom. Shalom.

Peace be with you.

Sunday, August 24, 2008


I do believe I gave myself until Saturday to shed these tears.

But they did not come until this morning.

I got to service at Southland and sat down to listen to a sermon about Worship.

Everything was fine. I sat in the chair watching all the people around me. The babies and the couples and the groups of friends. This morning I could pick the freshmen out of the crowd... and my eyes kept searching for someone familiar.

No one in particular. Maybe someone I didn't even know. Just someone familiar. Am I the only one who does that? The one that feels lonely in a crowd. Even a crowd whose arms are as widely outstretched as the family of Southland? I have a sneaking suspicion all I'd have to do is reach out once ... that would be all it would take.

But most days I don't have that courage.

The couple who sat in front of me caught my eye. She was cute and curvy with beautiful curly hair and a sweet face. He adored her. BIg tall strong man, reaching out to touch her shoulder whenever he could.

And I felt a twinge of jealousy. I pushed it away. It was unwarranted, unnecessary. I replaced it with a certain joy for the couple... a silent prayer that he would continue to touch her that way. That she would continue to smile.

The sermon, to a certain extent, wasn't anything extraordinary. Worship, in the greek, comes from a word that means "to kiss towards" or "to bow down before". It is not about singing. Or whether there are drums on the stage or hymnals in the pews.

Jon started talking, then, about what we do with our hands when we worship.

He made jokes and drew comparisons and explanations.

Then he got to how we raise our hands high, palms outstretched.

And he said...

"This is my little girl when she's tired and needs to know that it is safe to go to sleep."

"Or my son when we falls off the bike and scrapes his knee. It's real pain. But he needs to know that there is someone bigger than himself to make it better."

And the tears came.


Out of nowhere.

I thought about my sister as a baby who used to stand with her arms outstretched, scrunching her fingers. "Uppy", she would said. She wanted to be picked up. To be held.

Usually I am able to control my tears. They stay fairly under my control, just sliding down my cheeks, making my eyes glisten. Most of the time I stay fairly composed.

But they got to my lungs this time.

And rolled down my neck.

And fell on my lips.

I sniffled, but otherwise remained silent. Face soaked and shoulders shaking.

I don't really know why. And even as I write this I feel them coming back... pushing at my eyelids and my throat. They are not spent yet. They'll come again.

I prayed. Or... groaned, hoping the holy spirit would pray for me. So often my words fall short of anything coherent. Sentences refuse to form and my mind hits a wall, and I know the words I know are not enough. So I say I'm sorry and rest in the fact that the Lord knows my heart... and knows what I'm trying to say. Even when I can't.

When we were done praying I raised up to find the sweet girl in front of me reaching over the chair to hand me two tissues.

Part of me was mortified.

I had forgotten I was surrounded by hundreds of people.

Forgotten they could see me.

But she didn't say a word.

She didn't look at me like I was crazy. Or ask to lay hands on me or even ask if I was okay.


She did exactly what she needed to do.

She gave me something I needed.

In the midst of feeling lonely and overwhelmed and far too small...

God reminded me that I could be seen.

So I used one tissue and tucked the other one in my Bible.

And I plan to keep it there.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Biggest

I am sitting here in the library.

A library that is unfamiliar to me. There are no librarians I know. I can't find any of the books I need... there are no familiar faces.

This has been one of those weeks.

I give it until Saturday morning before I start crying. But I feel it building up. I'll try and warn you before the tears start. But I'm not making any promises.

This is one of the prices you pay for being the oldest. It's no one's fault. Nothing was necessarily done wrong. This is just what happens. You don't know the best way. The most efficient way. Things have changed and every day that passes, people who do their jobs well are harder and harder to find.

I am twenty years old. Living on my own for twenty-five months. Three addresses in... I have a pet and a car and a full-time job, which I've had for three years. I've been in school since January of 2006. I have an Associates Degree and a few extra credit hours.

And I am spending my days getting paper cuts and opening the mail.

I have no plans.

I have no earthly idea what is going on.

Or even what to do next.

And between Tuesday and Wednesday of this week... the deal seemed to be sealed.

A letter came in the mail.

Letters in the mail are either a) really good, sweet things; or b) horrible things.

This time, it was in between. (Even now I understand that things could be SO much worse. This situation is really erring on the safe side, on the manageable side.)

I graduated in May and decided to cut back on some of my school hours. For five semesters now, I've been taking 5 classes and working full time. It was time to take a break. So I'm enrolled in one class and one lab.

4 credit hours. Anatomy. That class in and of itself is going to kick my butt.

Then I get this letter.

"Because you have dropped below official part-time student status (which is 6 hours), you will be required to being repayment of your Stafford Student Loans in 90 days."

I am two credit hours shy of being in the clear.


Rose, in the financial aid office, laughed at me.

The phone number the loan people gave me only sends me to a machine.

There are no real people anywhere to be found to understand my predicament.

So on November 2nd I will begin a ten year process of paying for two student loans that somehow accrued a stupid amount of money.

Money I had to use to pay for classes, for $200 parking tags, for $400 books.

And this time next year, unless a miracle happens, I'll be taking out more loans to finish a BS and MS degree at a real university... with hopes of becoming a nurse or an occupational therapist.

To make matters worse... I went and had a photo shoot with four of the most beautiful kids I've seen in a very long time. After the first roll of film, my camera decides to break.

The diagnosis? Another couple of hundred and three months to fix it.... because "they" (once again, the invisible them who rule the world) don't make film cameras anymore.

On top of all the other evil in this world... we are losing an art form to boot.

I'm being dramatic now. I realize this. I also realize that nothing is ever as bad as it seems, and that someone always has it worse. And I'm worrying a few verses in my head like loose teeth.

"Do not be anxious about anything...."

"Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, tomorrow will take care of itself...."

Or my favorite. "Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to their life?"

How is it that I know this...

But I just don't remember.

I just don't really know.

One of my favorite men in the world wrote some similar words the other day. His advice echoes in my ears (take a deep breath and swim towards the light) and I'd give anything to be with him and my father (two of the most intelligent, endearing men I've ever known) in the Colorado Mountains. Not that in the valley all problems disappear.

But the sky is bigger.

And I need to be reminded that I am not the biggest.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Sixth Semester

The summer is wrapping itself up.

I know this, because I can't walk through the store without being bombarded by school supplies and matching sheet sets and colorful laundry baskets.

Used to be, school would start back and schedules would change. For a few weeks, it would be hot and muggy outside and kids would come home in their polos and khakis and traffic would be jammed with big, yellow school buses.

I was never a part of that. We always waited until Labor Day weekend to start school back. And we did school in our pajamas. And we had plenty of fitted sheets and laundry baskets, thank you very much.

But now... the people I know who are going back to school are leaving town. They are getting their oil changed and are taking out loans and buying season football tickets. They are hanging parking passes from their rearview mirrors and buying thumbtacks and new toasters (which they really aren't allowed to have).

Now, the people I know are getting married.

Some are done with school, and all the end of summer means, is the workplace just doesn't make you sweat so badly.

I sat at church this morning waiting for the service to start. I am the queen of eavesdropping and people watching. I pinpointed which young adults were spending their last Sunday at home with their parents, and which would sport UK blue come fall. There was one guy who stood beside me, updating a few elderly people about his life on campus (out of state, I presumed). And even as I sat there, he announced he was engaged. Getting married next summer after his junior year was done. Everyone was bubbly and excited.

And as he walked away, the oldest of the group leaned forward and whispered, "he's just a boy!". Everyone nodded their heads in agreement. He was just a boy. But I saw the look of resignation on their faces. He was just a boy to them... but to the world, he was all grown up. And he had a life, another life, far away that he was excited to return to.

This morning we talked about prayer in service. At the end, Mike asked us all to start praying for each other. He got specific. Pray for marital troubles, for family dysfunction, for financial stress. And then he had anyone and everyone who was involved in the academic process (principals, teachers, admins, school bus drivers) to stand up. Then he smiled and asked students of all age and types to stand up. And he prayed over us.

And I started crying.

The kind of crying I do when I didn't know I needed to cry.

When I've successfully tricked myself to the point I am unaware of my fear... or my anxiety... or my dread.

You see, I go back to school again this year too.

But my school is five miles down the road.

And it is the same school I've been going to since I was seventeen years old. This is my third year... the second half of my third year. I got a degree back in May. And for reasons that I pray will add up in the end, I am going back in eight days.

There are people, I understand, who take much longer than this to get through school.

But I am afraid I have yet to make a difference in anyone's life in that place. That all I've managed to do is make a poor example of my Christ... stress myself to the point of tears... and try desperately hard, one more time, to fit in.

Fitting in is something I've never been able to do.

I can't wait to get out.

And I hate the fact that I have to go back for a few more credit hours. Stand in those lines again. Park in that parking lot. Use those bathrooms. Sit in those couches in that lobby where so many things have happened to me...

Even as I throw this pity party, there are faces that are pulled to mind. Faces I wouldn't trade for the world. People I've met because of that community college. Lessons I've learned inside those walls.

I guess that is one of the things about this life. Learning to see an experience for what it is... and learning when to move on.

It will be time for me to move on soon. To go to a university and finish a degree and support a football team. Buy sweatshirts in team colors that I will wear for years until they tatter... buy a decal for my back window. And one day, wear a cap and gown and graduate.

But for now, just like with my job, there is something else I have to do. And that is, as I start my sixth semester on the community college campus, to represent myself well. To be a light, no matter how dim my surroundings may be. To study hard, to laugh harder. To befriend and learn and cherish these last few months when I actually know what I'm doing, where I'm going, and who is sitting in the next desk.

And on the day I walk away, I will walk away with the memories. Of Walt and Irene and Kip. Of Kat and Dwaine and Brittany. Of a thousand different languages floating through the cafeteria and the smell of Kati Dale's cigarette smoke on the patio.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


Sehnsucht. “Akin to joy, sehnsucht was a wistful longing. A yearning like the itch of the soul." (Adelaide Piper, Beth Webb Hart)

This is why I read.

A dear friend (who is fairly new to the tumultuous world of creative writing) was experiencing what most call “writer’s block”. Nothing was being produced. The blank page stares at you, glowing, taunting, devouring whatever it is you write there… leaving you back at square one. I felt sorry for him and told him to go read.

It just so happens that writing is a lot like the rest of this life. Sometimes your resources get depleted. Your reservoir is emptied. And the only way to fix this problem – to tear down this inhibiting wall or refill the creative cistern – is to consume and absorb words that are not your own.

So he did.

And so did I.

By doing so (for once, taking my own advice) I stumbled upon a book based in the low country. A well-written book that, in the very last paragraph, managed to fill my reservoir to the brim.

Because I have an itch of the soul. I said this out loud while eating dinner at a local pub the other night and another close friend smiled playfully and asked if it was “the kind of itch you can’t reach?”

I laughed ruefully and said, as a matter of fact it was.

This, perhaps, is not such a bad thing.

It is this itch that drives us to action. It is an itch that keeps us up at night, staring at the clock.

It is an itch that requires you to change. To be courageous and bold. It is an itch that will humble you, reminding you that you have not done it all, nor will you ever. An itch that ignites a desire to be greater than you are. And as the Germans believe, it is a wistful longing “more desirable than any other satisfaction”.

The kind of itch a snake must feel before shedding its too-tight skin.

Or the itch that drives the butterfly from its cocoon.

An itch that pushes a chick out of its shell.

Friday, August 8, 2008

My Real Job

Today is Friday.
And I am tired.
Physically tired from yoga and tennis and spinning. My hips are speaking to me even as I sit here.
But the fatigue is mostly in my mind.

I had a very frustrating day. Or should I say, month or two. The office is wearing me thin. Mostly because it's an office. And I get bored. And lonely.

This week was kind of the last straw. Not enough of a last straw to make me quit... or even seriously contemplate quitting. But enough to get me pissed. And wear me out.

I've been full time since May. Finally, after three years, I know what I am doing. I know how to do what I do. And most of the time I'm able to do it right and do it well.

I started a new kind of job this week. Opening mail. Not the data entry I've been doing for years. But sorting, opening, scanning insurance and patients' checks and refunds and bills from collection agencies.

It sucks, basically. And I'm slow. And my eyes don't know what to look for quite yet. And I've been working overtime to make sure it gets done.

Overtime that my pay stub told me today I wasn't getting paid for.

So I got to work this morning... thanking God it was finally Friday.

My allergies had my head in a fog.

My muscles hurt.

And the kitchen was sagging in greasy food for a coworkers birthday.

Bad combo.

A few more things happened ... adding frustration and sadness to my plate.

Until everyone started noticing.

And they started telling me how much they appreciated me.

About what good work I did. How they didn't understand why I'd been given one of the most menial tasks on my side of the office. Why my "talent" was being wasted. I was the best they said.

That made me feel better.

But I still had to go back and sort the daggon mail.

And as I sat down... I remembered something.

Something about how we're supposed to do everything we do as if we are doing it for the Lord.

Even if that means sorting mail until we're blue in the face.

I may have convinced myself I want was superiority and authority at work... but it's a fat lie. I like to fly under the radar. To do what I do and do it well and right and then maybe a little more... and then go home and feel good about it. I don't want to be in charge. I just forgot that about myself for a while.

So my job is not so much sorting mail or making notes or cleaning up patient accounts or reminding Rita that military insurance uses socials as ID numbers.

It's about doing what they hand me.

And doing it well. And right the first time around. And then maybe doing a little more.

Because I'm doing it for the Lord.

And that's all there is to it.

This gives a whole new meaning to "doing God's work".

But I'm still unbelievably relieved that today is Friday and it is four in the afternoon and I have two and a half days to be myself.

It will just make Monday morning that much easier.