Saturday, December 26, 2009

watching

Well, Christmas. Much more real than Thanksgiving, but still nice. Good to know that real life in regard to my family can be manageable and can be good. Something to be thankful for. I don't think I'll write a very Christmas-y post, or a happy birthday Jesus post, but there's this: if he came to save me, if he forgave me, then I must be nothing but thankful and repentant and myself forgiving. If he can forgive me, then I should ask for forgiveness, both from my God and my family, the people it's hardest with. I should be quick to turn back, even if it feels too late--"maybe forgiveness is right where you fell." And those are hard things coming, I'll tell you, but I don't think I feel the desperate need for Christ so strongly in anything else. I am rebellious and independent by nature, and arrogant, oh man, but I need my God and he's good at showing me that and then being right there for me. If it's ever going to work, my family loving one another, then God's got to be the absolute nexus of it, he's got to be the one doing it through us, we've got to learn to let his hand be the one reaching out to each other. There's something good in this, and it's God. It's hearing my mom talk about praying for people, having a half hour discussion over the phone with her about different things in the Bible, about God. It's little places like that with Josh. All three of us believe in God, but there's a small feeling of the beginnings of it being less individual, more familial--the three of us seeking God together, calling each other to that. That would be wonderful. There's hope in that.

The drive home was strange in a very detached sort of way. Sometimes I get the feeling that I'm just watching things, that I'm separate from the things going on. It's usually only for a little bit, and then I lurch back in all of a sudden--anyway, I felt like I was driving through a movie on the way home, something American Beauty-esque. I had the soundtrack to Garden State playing (and I have a whole blog planned about that planned, so if I ever get to it...), if you haven't heard it, think acoustic folk, really chill. And then I saw a pair of pants on the side of the road. Love it, hilarious. But then, two or three minutes later, I started seeing all these clothes scattered across the highway, tossing all limp in the blow-rush of cars passing by. I can't think of the right verb to describe this--imagine a puppet, its movements, careless. The plastic bag from American Beauty, the way the wind floats it, except clothes, red and blue and this purple long sleeve thing that ripped in the slipstream past my windshield, sleeves thrashing and waving.

I wanted to catch them, but I was watching the colors toss through the air around me, some dream of childhood, laundry hung out on the line meshed with the improbability of driving this machine rocketing down a stretch of asphalt. Imagine kites, between cars, and rushing road sound. Flying home.

Monday, December 21, 2009

city/country

We drove back from 'Nam last night so I could work tomorrow morning, and somewhere in the back-road stretch between there and home, sometime around three in the morning, I was looking out the window and surprise. Sky full of stars. I forget sometimes about how when you're in the country you see so many more stars. In high school I always told myself I'd move back to the country when I grew up, somewhere really out in the middle of nowhere and sleep out in the middle of a field if I wanted where the sky looked like a city lit up at night. I feel kind of silly writing about stars. I just forget about that kind of thing living in the city.

I want to live somewhere one day where I don't have to have a car. I want to spend time in the mountains in the summer, climbing things and seeing the stars where there aren't any lights around. And live near a port, near the ocean. What I'm really saying is a mix of the places I've lived and spent time in which makes total sense, sort of like saying I'd live in the country when I always had. Well, I can't really fit all the places I want to live in one place, but, well--yes, I'd like not to have to own a car. To get around the city on public transit and walking, and to be able to visit the country sometimes. Anything more specific, well I don't know, but I like the movement. And I want to always be caught by surprise when I look at the sky at night.


I'm sitting here watching Julie & Julia with my roommate, every so often parroting the things the French women are saying in English, so that what you see is me with all bundled up and beanied, laptop balanced on top of two blankets, me saying there! (theh-ul) sure! (shu-ul) with! (wheesze) but I am helping! (el-peeng) I love this.

It's just cold enough that I'm almost too warm underneath all the bundling and my fingertips and nose are cold and I'm thinking that hanging out here writing is a nice way to spend a Sunday night.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

lux, lucis

There two things about snow, for me: first, I've seen it. Not a lot, but I've seen it. Second, I have no idea at all how to dress properly for it and while I can't go outside more a minute while it's snowing without my whole body shaking, it is pretty. I like the ice, most. It's only raining here but if you go outside it still smells like snow, like something--maybe the ice?--sharp, defined lines, something cold and precise. I like the way, after snow or ice when the sun comes, everything is so clear, crystalline. Same as after hurricanes, except then it's warm and muggy, but clear, nothing left at all but swept-away sky.

I'm hoping for a little snow while we're in St. Louis, but there's a bit of apprehension mingled in there as well, as checking weather.com tells me the first day we're there it'll be twenty-eight degrees. The high, that is, meaning it'll probably be below twenty at night and I'm afraid I am a southern, warm-weather creature and when the air isn't thick I feel like I'm moving through things too quickly. And that's on top of being cold, of course.

Funny thing is that we don't use our heat. It's sixty-one in here now, but I've mastered the art of several blankets, sweats and the heater couch. Were I outside in sixty-one degree weather--well, maybe high fifties--and were there the slightest bit of wind I guarantee you I'd be cold. I swear it's a mental thing--in my own house (not at work, mind you) I can deal with extreme-ish temperatures (once more, all this being relative and fairly American, all this in reference to the use of central air and heat). In the coldest part of our admittedly mild winter, if it's thirty-five outside it'll get down to about fifty in the house, maybe a bit below during the night, but that's not till late January, early February. When we were kids it would get colder living in a trailer that wasn't insulated and gas way too expensive, and I remember getting dressed in the morning and being able to see my breath. My point is that, despite complaining, I can deal with the cold inside without a problem, but outside, I'm telling you. Drops below sixty and I'm shivering.

Part of me likes it all, though. I remember spending Christmas Eve my freshman year outside on my god-sister's porch listening to music and writing and my fingertips were so red and cold I could barely move them, but Christmas lights look different when it's that cold. They're pretty from the car, but feel warmer, more Christmas-y when the parts not bundled up are cold. Cold nose, cold fingertips, snow on your cheeks when you look up if you're really lucky.

Mmm, I'm just thinking. It's winter in, what, three days now? Already? Winter feels to me the same way black and white photographs do, that timeless feel about them. I suppose the connection there is a clear enough one. Everything's frozen. And it's like a picture in winter, still and clear and I can feel every little thing, none of the sluggishness of stewing, east coast heat. I'm thinking words with Latin roots to do with light--lucent, luminous, luz, lumin
ă
. Lucid.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

habakkuk 1:5

I'm sitting here listening to music on shuffle, and just now Chris Tomlin's song God of This City just started to play, and my stomach is somewhere by my feet. I don't think I've heard this song since I used it in a slideshow I made for fundraising for the Romania trip, and while Mighty to Save was the song I first associated with all of that, I don't know. It's the words, it's the sounds of a song I haven't heard since before I went, when that country was to me some pictures I'd found on google and what I imagined cities post-Communism to be like, mostly images from We the Living. I didn't know that country, and still I don't, but what I did know was completely intangible because what's a statistic numbering Evangelical Christians in Romania next to a group of Romanian students singing out to God because they love him, because they only want give glory to him?

This is messy, it's not well-articulated or punctuated, but I'm thinking of how I saw God moving in those students, in a church in Bucharest, and the words are exactly it. "You're the God of this city, you're the King of these people, you're the Lord of this nation." And "for greater things have yet to come, and greater things are still to be done in this city."

"There is no one like our God."

There's a verse I read earlier today and I've been sending it to everyone, and it's amazing how it's exactly this: "Look at the nations and watch--and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days you would not believe, even if you were told." Hab. 1:5

If there's one thing God continues to do, no matter what my situation is, it's amaze me. Just blow me away. He's always doing it, and sometimes all I can do is sit there and turn my hands out and think, whoa. This is a God who loves his children. Who's promised them hope and a future, who hides them in the shadow of his hand. Really, there is no one like our God.


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

we're back (like the dinosaur movie, but really only sarawr and singular)

Well, I am back. And it is about time. For me, I mean. Creature of habit, as always, just got out of the habit of writing in the middle of all the exams and didn't really get back in. But anyway, hop back on, or something like that.

November was a bit of an experiment. The initial idea was to write every day of the month, just to see if I could. And at first it went great--turns out length for me is more an issue of will, up until a certain point, and as always a bit of discipline does wonders. Who knew? But then it got weird and emo, and after the second or third time missing I decided, well I can't go every day now, and let myself not keep up. Here I'm reading way too much into this, but that makes sense considering everything to do with grace as of late, but I am learning, and it is good, and with any luck, that'll come in future posts. I kind of feel weird about following a month of a ton of productivity with a month of a lack of it, but all reading into things aside, how about I just write this post?

The only thing that really comes immediately to mind is that I switched my facebook (which I will be giving up around New Years for a yet to be determined period of time) into Romanian sometime during exams, and I'll tell you what, that has been an adventure. Facebook's buggy, as always, and at first it was this really strange hybrid between Spanish (it's been in Spanish for about a year now) and English and Romanian. Now the Spanish has mostly gone away, but it still alternates between the English and the Romanian--one day one part will be one language, and the next it'll be the other. And then the Romanian keeps changing. For example, the like button--one day it'll say imi place (I like) and the next it'll say iti place (you like) which does make sense, depending on from whose perspective you're saying it (either I'm saying I like it, therefore clicking the button, or they're asking me if I like it, and then I click the button).

I love to do this sort of thing though, with anything at all I do things repetitively on. My old roommate or someone switched my phone into Portuguese and, because at first I couldn't figure out how and later I was too lazy, for three months I would substitute the Portuguese (kind of like the 'I me gusta'ed his status' thing from before) within regular English rules, all American sounding and everything. That said, the temptation to not do away with facebook for a while lies in the exposure to Romanian, and for that reason I still may not do it--I could flip through the New Testament I have, but it's really just not as effective, even if I'm doing it parallel to the English, which--

Cool word thing. So the other night I was hanging out on biblegateway and I looked up Isaiah 43 in Romanian and I know it fairly well in English--not well enough to quote it or anything, but to guess along, follow along, figure it out with some of the Romanian (with my Bible open beside me to for real follow along, of course), and anyway. I came across the word martorii, and I thought, huh, that looks a little like martyr. And I never knew this until I read the beginning of this book by Richard Wurmbrand (who, ironically, was a Romanian Jew), but martyrs, witnesses--well, I'll do a bad job of explaining it but they're pretty synonymous. And so when I saw martorii, between context and what I'm assuming is a common Latin root, I thought it could be witnesses, and sure enough it was. And that's pretty much the coolest word thing I've come across lately.

There's some other stuff too, but I can't think of any of it right now. Looking forward to getting back into the habit of this. Until then--

Monday, December 14, 2009

the cutest little boy you ever did see



because look at that face.


(regular posting should resume forthwith)

Sunday, December 6, 2009

quote-of-the-day

"I feel that I am coming closer to God. Nowadays, I write to bring others along."

Thursday, December 3, 2009

eternal

It's seventy degrees outside and nearly midnight and it's the second of December. And the weather is something crazy, words like tumultuous, tempest, tempestuous coming to mind. I stood on my doorstep a couple of hours ago, hanging onto the doorknob and crowding against the door in an effort not to get wet--I have to go outside to talk on my phone--and I watched the pines toss in the wind and street light. It's like a tropical storm out there, all day long the rain flying every way but up, rising any way you look at it. A boy beside me in class today turned to me and told me just been put under a flood warning, and now I look and see we're under a tornado watch.

That old wives tale, the one that says if it lightnings it winter it'll snow two weeks later--well, funny thing is, it's not quite winter and it feels like a June night out there. Last night, walking around outside Barnes & Noble after my thesis reading, I stood shivering. And already it feels tropical again. I'll miss it here, little things like this. I'm more than excited about going wherever I'll be going, and the thing about being from somewhere is that it shapes the new places a bit. If ever again I am standing in Bucharest during the summer, the humidity will draw me back home. And here, the moon bright white and full as an ocean, above the tree line and the sky all the way dark at barely five, I'm wondering how early it's getting dark in the Apuseni Mountains.

I was sitting on my couch earlier, reading through our class anthology, and I think about how much places shape our lives. How much our lives are shaped, period, by the things that move in and out of them. I was never really sure before, but I do feel like I'm from somewhere now. And when I stand in the speckled shade of pines, even the way their bark looks and feels, these layered things shaped like countries in Europe or Africa, I remember growing up and corn fields, tobacco fields, cotton on the side of the road like snow. The openness of the rural south, of eighty years ahead of you you never thought about.

When it rains like this, and I don't have anywhere to go, I want to stand in it. I want to walk barefoot through the puddles in the parking lot, disregarding what might be in them and just cold water on my feet, water that might have risen from the Pacific before falling on me, for all I know. And what about Noah, before him when there was no rain? I'm not writing about hope, I'm writing about feeling like part of the same humanity as someone I've never met, because maybe I've shared a few ounces of the same water with them. Or about finding pieces of home everywhere you go, wondering that when I close my eyes, there is no difference.

Once I wrote about how on top of Monserrate, Bogotá sounded like the ocean, and how there was a smell in Mexico that reminded me of Colombia. I'm starting to wander now, just writing without being too sure of where I'm going. There's this, though: right now, if I went outside and did exactly what I said, stood barefoot in the street in the rainwater, it could be the night the tropical storm came a year and a few months ago. It feels no different outside to me. And all this connectedness, all these pieces that look so much like one another, how it stretches across decades or days--here's the leap, will it work?--I come to this: we are eternal beings. Of course. It's in our nature.

We have calendars, we denote time, but if I didn't know anything about keeping track of it, a song I last heard three years ago that I listened to this morning, that brought me right back to an exact moment I hadn't thought of since, and all the things I felt then returned as well, then I understand that the barrier of time really isn't a barrier at all. And in fact the barrier is being a created and eternal thing within a temporary body and world. We stretch beyond this.

Here I am just thinking again. I don't know how I wound up here. I was just going to write about the rain. But I think if you look very closely at things, the evidence of an eternal God is overwhelming. The more I start to think about this, flawed as my reasoning and understanding surely is, the other side of the equals sign maintains, and if that's what it points me toward, God that is, then I'm happy to walk that way.

Monday, November 30, 2009

here's my heart / thankful

Tonight was amazing, and God is so good. I'll tell you what. I love my church. And, and oh goodness, well I don't even know how to start this blog so I'm just gonna kind of go for it.

First, there was an amazing quote about giving thanks and Thanksgiving by Abraham Lincoln that Pastor Jeff read at church tonight and I've looked for the last twenty or so minutes and I can't find one that includes all of what was read, but if I can put that up later, I will. And I realized that the lyrics to Come Thou Fount are incredible. He was talking about how we go to God with things and ask him to come through and then he does and then later we do it again and he comes through again, and that goes on and sometimes we forget to really thank God for all the things he does in our lives, all the ways he blesses us.

He referenced a pretty cool place in 1 Samuel (7:2-17) where the Israelites have been really comfortable with all the ways God has blessed them and start to turn away from him and they're worshiping these idols and all of that. And Samuel comes in and says that if they're really going to return to the Lord with all their hearts, they can't serve the other gods anymore, they can only serve him. So they do that and all gather together at Mizpah to worship him and right around that time the Philistines decide they're coming after them again and long story short, Samuel's praying for them, he doesn't even stop, and God saves them in a crazy way. So after that, Samuel says that they should remember that moment, and so they build a monument to acknowledge and thank God for what he did for them.

So I tend to swing back and forth on the things. This is true in general, but especially so in God stuff, and slowly I'm becoming more consistent. One of the ways I'm still trying to get there is being thankful for the things he does for me. If I think about stuff, I'll be thankful in that moment, but I'm not thankful all the time, and I'll go whole stretches without saying, look at these things you have done for me, God! Thank you for blessing me and growing me and teaching me and bringing me closer to you all the time. One of my favorite verses, Psalm 30:11-12, which I put up the other day, says:

You tuurned my wailing into dancing;
you removed my sackcloth and clothed
me with joy,
that my heart may sing to you and not be
silent.
Oh Lord my God, I wil give you thanks
forever.

Oh Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever. Forever. Man. I love that, and the thing is, I totally want that. I want to be forever thanking my God.

We came home after church, Alicia and I and our friends Matt and Chris, and we were intending to pray about the evangelism thing we've got coming up (this Thursday! yikes! so close!) and we ended up having this crazy amazing talk about the message, talking about all the things God has done in our lives. And he has done so much. I was going to do a post over Thanksgiving, because I've never actually done one and for various other reasons, the obligatory I-am-thankful-for post, and I just ended up not doing it. The driving home post was forefront, but I'm wondering now if it's not too late.
Lately, I feel like God's been doing a lot of pointing out places in me in which he could be bigger, he could be better glorified. There's been a lot of reevaluating and reorganizing and a lot of putting a-shaped things through b-shaped places, and it'd go on way too long to get into now, but it's pretty awesome. It's hard, but it's good, it's God. And I'm so thankful for it.

There's a ton more I'm thinking about. There are the big things, the things where he's done the life-changing things, and in those places I've learned some of who he is, how he is. He's my rescuer, my father. He's hope for new life, redemption, and he's endlessly, infinitely good. And I'm learning more now about his grace, about how he is graceful, and it won't come easily but it is coming, and I'm understanding more, seeing more.

Whatever this is, I am thankful for it, and even if I'm still getting there, learning and growing and all of that, God is consistent and he's bringing me more and more toward him, and that's certainly something to be thankful for.


Come, thou Fount of every blessing,
tune my heart to sing thy grace;
streams of mercy, never ceasing,
call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I'm fixed upon it,
mount of thy redeeming love...
O to grace how great a debtor
daily I'm constrained to be!
thy goodness, like a fetter,
bind my wandering heart to thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
prone to leave the God I love;
here's my heart, O take and seal it,
seal it for thy courts above.
(from Come Thou Fount)

Saturday, November 28, 2009

the trip home

It was the nicest trip home it's ever been, I think, if I can say that without it being too weird. Weird for me, I mean. It was nice. And I had a good time. Driving to my mom's was something else entirely, headed west and the whole left side of the world this crazy dark blue and dark purple pink, a combination of colors I've actually only ever seen on fabric. There's this shirt or pair of something that Alicia has that I'm thinking of and the craziest thing was that there it was, stretched across the sky, everything else that was natural dark.

And then I was listening to something, I don't even know, some Relient K song, I think. Yes! The end of Deathbed, just singing out in the dark and sometimes I feel like it's meant to be exactly like that, just singing out. Reminds me of Romania, the mountains. God like a color I'd never seen before.

And then my car started making crazy noises, and I turned down my music to listen to it, praying and making sure I could hear if the bottom did fall out of my car. And after a little while it just quit altogether, the sounds I mean, not the car. And so it was quiet, just the road sound and I was having God time, and that was nice because I think too much in the car to ever really do that.

And then--in some ways the drive home might have been a trip, double meanings there intended--when I hit Raleigh the traffic got really busy, except we didn't slow down all that much. So going sixty-five or so, not able to see anything beyond all the tail lights all around me and guessing at the way the road went, basically blind except for the cars around me and the small space in between them and mine. Feeling like I was flying going that fast with cars so close. And the whole time, all I could think was it felt just like I was on Rainbow Road, you know the one on Mario Kart N64? And that level was scary, I always went flying off the edges, and my car pulls really badly to the left and once when I was looking through cds I almost drove off the road, nearly over-corrected, and felt my car's back tires do something. No idea how I didn't roll my car. Bigger cars flying past me like red turtle shells. Craziest thing.

And then being at my mom's was pretty good. Not one fight or argument, just all three of us living together and working at it and hanging out. My brother's doing well, at least at home. There's so much I want for him, and if I could have taken him home with me, brought him to Lifepoint with me, I would have. A lot of questions come up here, but I love that kid and that's all I'm really thinking about now. We got a good picture together on my phone and now it's my background and I kept looking at it as I drove. The word hope is my banner, and I think it fits with his picture behind it.

On the drive back last night, the sunset was completely different. Still really dark, the whole rest of the sky, but really orange in my rearview mirror. Dark orange, like something burning, all the telephone poles and buildings and trees drawing dark lines upward against it. Just silhouette and sky. Glowing, again, but not like the kind that really lights up anything. Just glow, no long shadows. Maybe you see a second of it on someone's face or a flash in a reflection, something fast. That's what I feel like now, already looking back on heading home, how somehow it turned out perfect, this glow and all I can do it is look at it.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

to clarify

Because several people have pointed this out to me since the post about grace, I thought it was important to clarify: I am not miserable. If you're someone who's around me regularly and know how I generally am when we see each other, it really helps to balance things out. The problem is that what I write on my blog very disproportionately represents me, since all it is is how I am when I write. And I am an emo writer, sometimes, nearly all the time when it's at night that I'm writing. I can bounce off the walls all day and when I'm around people, but if it's quiet and I'm by myself and in my head, and add to that being chill, low-energy, reflective and you get the sort of blogs I put up. I'd noticed it a bit earlier, so I was going to try to write less at night, more in the morning and all, but I'm definitely a creature of habit (and of schedule, school and work tending to dictate at least a rough structure for my days). But yeah. I just thought I should clarify.

The thing with blogging for me is just that it's so cathartic and once I make sense of things on paper--even if they tend to sound sad or hopeless--all the rest, the parts that matter like hope and God's goodness, they just shine. And that's the thing. Whether I'm frustrated or overjoyed, that's the constant--God's hope and his goodness. And I think I'd like there to be more of that in my blog, because it's exactly what I want to be living out of.

And that said, thanks for caring enough to say something, to look out for me. It really does mean a lot to me. And as always, thanks for reading.

from la biblia

Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not
perceive it?
I am making a way in the desert
and streams in the wasteland.
The wild animals honor me,
the jackals and the owls,
because I provide water in the desert
and streams in the wasteland,
to give drink to my people, my chosen,
the people I formed for myself
that they may proclaim my praise.
--Isaiah 43:18-21

He said to me, "You are my servant,
Israel, in whom I will display
my splendor."
--Isaiah 49:3

You turned my wailing into dancing;
you removed my sackclothed and clothed
me with joy,
that my heart may sing to you and not be
silent.
O LORD my God, I will give you thanks
forever.
--
Psalm 29:11-12

But as for me, I will always have hope;
I will praise you yet more and more.
--Psalm 71:14

Monday, November 23, 2009

ungraceful

Oh boy. Well, this one's been a long time coming, and now, just now, at 2:33 in the morning between me and Alicia and the Holy Spirit flowing like crazy, we've got at something. I wanted to write about a week or so ago about how selfish I've been realizing I am. It's a lot of different things that have been happening, and it's strange because in some ways I'm the opposite, but I have to explain that and this is just so much at once, so. Let's see if we can do this.

Problem number one: selfishness. This one encompasses a ton of other things, but generalities first. I'm thinking about how I always write about myself, and I'm certainly always thinking about myself. This is aggravated by the fact that I'm so introspective, which I don't think is a bad thing, and it's certainly an area where God is working and I do believe he will use to glorify himself, this not being about changing my personality or anything (I don't think I'd be able to write if I weren't so introspective). I was listening to Alicia talk the other day about how she was praying for these different people and I realized that, while I do pray for other people some, and while it is genuine, I pray mostly about myself. What's going on in my life, how God's working in that, what I need help with, and me me. I write that stuff out. I talk about it in discipleship. This is just another example of how Alicia and I are so alike and so different, and complement each other in a very yin and yang sort of way. In this area, she's super compassionate, and after a little while, I'm quick to become selfish, to lose patience.

Immersing in other cultures, listening to people--in these ways, while I'm only good at these things because of God, I go on my own steam. And I can go a little while that way, but it does not last. It was never meant to. Of course, I was never meant to do any of this without God. I'm thinking about a specific moment with my friend who isn't a Christian. And for a while I cared so much about her and was praying for her and having these conversations and all of that, and in some ways she would be open, but she kept putting up a wall and I kept running against it. Enter patience on my own steam. And it worked, for a while. But then one night, it just pushed right over my limit (my limit being exactly what the word is, very limited). We were having a conversation and, in fewer words, she basically told me she'd rather be ignorant and selfish about all the really terrible things that happen in the world, because she didn't want to feel guilty about having it so good here. And there was some stuff about how she doesn't need anyone--she's one of the most self-reliant, independent, never wants to need anyone ever people I've met, which is problematic because how do you realize you need Jesus if you don't think you need anyone? And I just got so frustrated, so angry at her. Partly because I just threw in the towel at her resistance to anything to do with needing people and God (which is pretty silly of me, but just laying it out here) which reads: running out of patience. And that frustration turned into not really caring to be around her which led to me being passive aggressive and being a terrible friend in so many different ways and selfishness.

I do this thing when I hit this limit with people. I get fed up (so quickly) and I just don't care anymore. I'm done with it, moved on, over it. Well, whatever then.

Problem number two: I am keeping things removed from me, keeping my heart incredibly guarded and walled up, and I didn't even realize it until about a week ago. It's sort of typical for me I guess, but I thought I was doing okay. I can talk about all the crazy things that have happened in my life with little reservation. I'll go there with people, I love having conversations about real, hard stuff, getting into people lives and hearts. But I've written before about how I felt so distant from that, like Dave Eggers and the shed snake skin. And then the thing that came up a couple of weeks ago about not holding things too closely, about really hard things happening and being okay, too okay, nearly immediately.

Realization: I am not letting my heart into things and I am not letting things into my heart. I thought I was, but I am not. Not at all. I was talking to another friend recently and I realized I'd been this way since breaking up with my ex. Which sounds ridiculous, I've never been one of those people and pretentious Sara, the one with no patience for people who use things as excuses not to grow, has always thought I'd never be that way, whatever would happen to me. But I think about how hard that whole thing was for me, how I held onto it for months and months, just hurt and bitterness like it would never quit. And I know that before, living with my mother, things were so difficult and I can remember how hard they were, how I didn't know if I could get through it. So I know that things have been close to my heart before. And then I think about the first genuinely difficult thing after all of that, when I met my dad in December, and how all that went so wrong. But it was never hard. I mean, it was, but it wasn't close. I skipped along the surface of that thing the whole time, and I never realized it, not until nearly a year later. Of course I can shoulder through, I can keep going with life because life keeps going when I don't let anything near enough to me to catch me. How I did that, how I have been doing that without having coming to this realization sooner absolutely blows my mind.

And it's incredibly easy to let things go, to drop them when I run out of patience if I haven't ever really invested my heart in them. I'm not talking about burning bridges or anything. What I mean is caring, how it's easy to quit caring and to say fine, forget it, I'm done when you never really cared well to begin with. You know?

Here's the part that really blows my mind. I'm saying patience, I'm writing patience, but really it's grace, grace masquerading as patience. That's the problem. And bam! Haven't I just started to realize this? How I do not come anywhere close to understanding grace. How I have so much trouble receiving God's grace. I've got a limit, but he does not. He does not. The problem is a grace problem. And if I can't receive, how on earth do I expect to give it?

I'm not sure how this ties in with unguarding my heart some, although I know it absolutely does. I know that God is working here, and he does not want me to be this way. He doesn't want me to be so mean and selfish and quick to quit. And he wants me to rely on him for all this, for giving people grace, for having patience. I can do a little on my own steam, but that's just it, it's only ever a little and I could never really do it unless he is doing it through me. So I have to let him do that. I have to let him pour his grace out on me first, I have to accept forgiveness and give him these places where I'm selfish and ungraceful and bitter, and he's got to be the one to unguard my heart some, because after all, it's his.

It is his. And it is a mess. And I feel like something big's coming, I've been feeling like this for a while now, and I'm so scared, but how do I learn to give hard, really hard things to God if I just deal with them (by not letting them touch me) myself? It's like asking for patience and expecting to just get it. Sometimes I don't really know how to give things to God, and it's especially true with this in that I never realized I wasn't putting my heart into certain things. How do I put my heart into something when I thought I was all along? How do I learn to be graceful? I know it's accepting God's grace first, but if knowing it meant my heart did, then this wouldn't be the problem.

I should have ended it a paragraph ago, but I just pray you would pour out your grace on me, Father, that you would help me to understand how to be loved by you, how to love other people and to forgive, how to trust you and put my heart into things so you can be glorified in them. I know that I am so tired of realizing how much of a mess I am, how selfish I am but I trust you, God, I know you're growing me and I don't even know what to do with it most times but right there, in that right there, God I pray you would press me into yourself, that I would lean into you and it would be just like what you want, you saving me from hard stuff. I don't even know, God I just. That's what I want, my heart to be yours, and I've been dancing around everything with this awful pretense of loving people and sharing life and learning to love you, but that's not something that can be done without the heart, and it is yours, God, I want it to be yours.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

shadrach, meshach, and to bed we go

It's Pre-Turkey Day today, and right now everyone in the house is running around and everything is crazy and I've got a whole ton of macaroni to make later. John Mark McMillan is playing and more than anything I just want to go somewhere quiet and close the door and just be there a little while. We're going to have probably forty or fifty people packed into the apartment and it's all gonna be crazy and loud and everything going on at once, and part of me knows that yes, this is where good things happen. And I'm excited for that. But right now I just want to go somewhere where I can be quiet without people asking me what's wrong.

I'm thinking about the story in Daniel, the one where Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego get thrown into the furnace, and it's not really related at all to right now except that I'm thinking about it. I had a roomie date with Alicia Thursday night and we talked about it, and my staffworker and I talked about it a couple of weeks ago, and all I can think is wow. They said, "If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up." (Daniel 3:17-18) Even if he doesn't save us, our God is still big and mighty, he is still our God.

I was thinking about how when I mess up, or I'm in hard place and I need God's help, but I got there because of my own sin, I feel like I can't go to God with that. That I got myself there by being disobedient, and I'll have to get myself back out. And that is not true at all, that is a lie. Keeping in mind that, while I understand grace in that I can explain it someone else, I do not live out of the fact that I live under the constant grace and mercy of my King. And this is bad news. Especially when I don't go to him with things because they're my fault. I've said it before, and I am forever learning it: if he's the God of my life, then he is the God of my whole life, of the parts where I'm not deserving (all of it) and where I'm not good enough and the parts that aren't clean and pretty. And the good, too. Really, all of it.

I don't know when I'm going to get it through my head (read: through my heart) how freeing that really is. The thing is, even though I know I can't, I want so badly just to please my Father, to be good for him, to bring him something worth all this love he has for me, worth him saving me. You see this? As if I could earn it, and I can't, I know it. But there it is. I want to be good enough. I want to hear 'well done, good and faithful servant.'

I think the word in there I need to hear is faith. Just trusting God with all of it. Being able to stand and say, my God will save me! And even if he doesn't, he is still my God, the God of my whole life and everything else is just.. what is everything else, anything else next to my God?

That is how I want to live, out of what I want to live. Not out of shame or guilt or laziness or bitterness. I want to live out of complete abandonment to my God, my King.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

pasare de noapte

So tired. Like, barely able to function tired. And probably going to get a D in a class now tired. This is equal parts bad time management, effects of seeing Paranormal Activity, and as of last night, creepy freaking people. I was talking to my Romanian friend last night and I said that I was becoming nocturnal, and he said they had a saying in Romanian, and that I was a night bird. Pasare de noapte. I like it, and it's prettier than night owl, for sure.

On the one hand, it works. If I'm awake all night then I don't ever have to be scared about sleeping, because I don't get scared sleeping during the day. But going to bed at night has been a struggle for about a month now. I was going to write a whole post about this let me just say that seeing a movie about something you know bothers you, messes you up--it's just bad news, don't do it. Because images from that movie will stick with you and you will be scared every time you try to sleep and you won't sleep well, and I could get into the spiritual effects of a movie like Paranormal Activity but it boils down to, for me, some things I'm just really sensitive to, anything to do with demons being one of those, and I have to be careful what I put in my mind. Lesson learned, although I already knew it, the expense being little good sleep for the last month.

So that said, my sleeps schedules have been pretty thrown off anyway. And I do tend to be more nocturnal. One of the only things that keeps me from being awake all night and sleeping most of the day when I'm not in school is having to be at work at nine a.m. Good structure always helps me, but now I've gotten to the part of the semester where I'm burned out and really don't care about school anymore and when I'm not working or in class, I'm hanging out with my friends and getting nothing done. This weekend, for example: stayed awake all night hanging out Saturday night, went to see the sunrise and got breakfast, then slept a couple of on and off hours and went to the evening service at church. And then we all ended up hanging out again and it was 4:30 or so before I went home. Again, great for not having to worry about being scared--if I'm awake all night with people, no problem. And if the sleeping I do starts when it's just getting light out, same thing. So all of our sleep schedules have been so thrown off at this point that we're just dragging. This part is totally on me. Again, just bad time management and being convinced I can go on less sleep than I can.

But then, last night. I knew I was going to be up late working on a presentation due this morning anyway, but I was ready to just shoulder through it. And then around 2:00 or so, I hear tapping on the sliding glass door next to me. Ignored it, it happened again. Sort of gave a shifty glance in the direction of the door, figured it was my neighbor Sara and that she could go around to the front door and not be creepy, but then I heard the knock again. So I grabbed my phone and had my thumb on the nine, and of course it being really dark outside and the lights turned on inside, I couldn't see anything. Keep in mind we have (vertical) blinds and they stay closed at night, but one of the blinds is missing and since our apartment won't replace it, technically you'd be able to see in through that part at night.

Well I opened the door, thinking it was Sara, but it was definitely not Sara. It was some random dude, two in the morning, introducing himself and telling me he sometimes sees me through the blinds on my computer and just generally being really creepy. Problem is, I sleep on the couch next to the blinds most nights, and while I almost always have the lights off when I sleep, lately I've slept a few nights with it on because I've been scared. And who knows how long old dude (actually he was young) has been 'seeing me through the blinds.' So my friend came over, knife in hand if you'd believe it, and sat with me a while. And I finished up my project, and probably got two hours of sleep, tops.

As far as being a pasare de noapte, I don't mind that, although my body probably doesn't even know what circadian rhythm means anymore, and I wish I could catch up on sleep without missing out on the things I'm responsible for. So we'll see. The goal tonight is a full night's sleep. And a nap when I go home from work for lunch. And one before small group. And probably by the time next Tuesday night comes, I'll be in full out coma mode, and that's before I even eat turkey.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

quote-of-the-day

"I am a nomad - a wanderer; I have nowhere to lay my head down. There’s no point in putting roots too deep when I’m moving on. I’m not settling for this unsettling town. My heart is filled with songs of forever - Of a city that endures, where all is made new. I know I don’t belong here; I’ll never call this place my home, I’m just passing through."
--Thrice

Friday, November 13, 2009

hope this one gets updated

So. Today I was going to get Jack. I still may get Jack today, but probably not. I sent an email this morning to the woman whose cats they are, just to confirm and all, and it turns out they disappeared in the storm. We don't know where or if she carried them off, but mostly I just hope they're okay. All that to say, currently, getting Jack is pending. I think probably when it dries out a bit the momma cat will bring them back. Hoping.

I was telling my roommate that when she got home this morning and she pointed out that it is Friday the thirteenth, after all. Not that I'm particularly concerned, but you know what they say. And it's been such a weird say already. I took my other roommate to school this morning and because she was running late and I didn't have time to change. I'd slept in this giant tshirt/sort of nightgownish because it comes almost to my knees thing and I just ran out to the car with her in that and flipflops. And some funky hair. And of course it's just to school and back and no one's going to see me and if someone does, oh well. But then when I got back to the apartment and I was walking to the door, my Costa Rican neighbor/maintenance dude (not Jaime, he's the Colombian) saw me and goes 'ooooooooooooooh.' Now, he always messes with me, but in a friendly ha-ha neighbor way. But either way, oh dear gracious. So embarrassing.

Also, I missed yesterday. Had a headache and fell asleep after work and slept all night. And apparently blogger has deleted a post of mine, the la historia de juan one, so I'm just sort of waiting for that one to come back. And refreshing my email. Kind of a passive day for me, so far. But passive works, says the roommate who's reminding me about Friday the thirteenth.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

oh, ida

It's been a wet one, for sure. We've got flood watches up now, I think, and we're supposed to get ten or eleven inches. This city floods like nothing else. Poor city planning, mostly, although here in the sub-tropical we do get a fair amount of rain, at least in the summer. One time this past summer we had this huge storm, and it poured--not just rained--for something like six hours straight. I don't remember exactly what the numbers were, of course, but I sat at my back door, blinds drawn open, and just watched the water rise behind our apartment. It always floods there when it rains, but that time it kept getting higher and I watched it flood over the patios and into the other apartments. I don't know if it'll happen again this time. I can't tell, it's so dark. Probably not, but just thinking about that.

It's been a strange one, too. It's been dark since I got up and it never really lit up much. Felt like six or seven all day today. I like it, though. And then in senior seminar tonight, the proofs for our anthology were handed out. I've seen things I've written printed before--a few contests before college, Atlantis, nothing prestigious or anything like that. Just little places. And I know the anthology our class puts together is nothing big either, and although I'm almost certain it won't have a barcode or anything like that, it will be printed in a book. And while it's exciting to few other than those of us printed in it, that's the closest thing anything I've written has ever looked to what it might look like one day, should I ever get published. Pretty exciting. Makes me want to write for real.

And the most exciting thing: I'm getting a kitty! I've wanted one for years, and I've been putting it off and talking myself out of it for various reasons, but I finally said yes. Little baby grey and white thing and I'm gonna call him Jack, after C. S. Lewis. I'll post pictures on here when I get him, which will hopefully be sometime Friday.

Aaaaaand now, I'm not sure how to end this post. Been typing and retyping and trying to ignore blogger for the last fifteen minutes or so, so I guess this is part where I just stop typing. Night, y'all.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

"let us fix our eyes on Jesus"

All right, with the assurance that the hiding-under-the-blanket-because-I-wasn't-wearing-pants post is coming--I really am not very good at writing blogs when I've got other things on my mind, and I just haven't sat down to do it clear-minded yet--here comes the processing.

The thing is, I am sad. For a friend of mine, because of the ways that none of us do anything anywhere close to perfectly, and because sometimes things just don't go down very well. I know that being obedient to God is foremost, and that he doesn't promise that that won't be hard, only that his will is to be done, and that it is infinitely better than any plans or even hopes of our own. The problem is that sin gets in the way of everything. Our own and everyone else's. It's hard for me to logic this out, because on the one hand I know we are free from sin, we are no longer bound by it. But that doesn't mean that I don't find myself reaching back for it every day. And it is messy. Even in submission and obedience to God, sin's still hanging out making a mess of everything. It's ruining relationships, growing up bitterness, and mostly, even in the good we try to do--even the good that doesn't feel good or look good or seem good to all involved--it's there pointing us in every direction we could go except toward God.

How do you point to scripture and say, this is how God would have it, this is what he says to do when you yourself don't live up to it? Accepting that none of us do, and that whatever standard or hope there is lies in Christ, how could we shrug off our own sin by pointing at the sin of others? Isn't the whole point that none of us are good or are worthy on our own, and that we are fully and desperately in need of God? Of course I am not good, of course I screw up, and the same is true of every person, and I don't claim anything otherwise. If we duck out that way though, we miss out on the whole point of the need for salvation.

I was thinking earlier about how before I'd sometimes have a hard time relating to the Christ part of the trinity, which really makes no sense since it's so vital. But I never really felt convicted of how much I needed him. I was thankful, certainly, as much as I suppose you could be without really understanding. But I always thought I was a pretty okay person, and while I can get mean, I was doing all right, and was growing, which was important. I never really realized the weight of sin and how badly it can screw things up and how, that one time I got really drunk and threw up everywhere or the other day when I lied to my teacher, those things on their own would keep separated from God forever if not for Christ. How desperate a situation I am in without my God.

If my heart breaks for my friend--and it does--it doesn't do it without first realizing how badly I fail to measure up. Being sinful and imperfect doesn't keep us from being able to help one another, to point each other back toward Christ. I feel like that's the whole point of relationships, in the end. And when we point everywhere else, at everyone else and gather to ourselves every little thing, hold it all in until there's nothing but bitterness and anger and lashing out, then we miss the entire point of the Gospel. We should be looking to Christ, and pointing one another there too, or else we are completely swept away by sin and all the hurt and mess it causes. Don't look at me or other people, or even the people you think are good, because if you base your faith in Christ on the people who follow him, you'll end up empty handed.

Right now I am sad and frustrated because I'm feeling pretty much like there is nothing I can do, and of course there isn't, but it's hard. If the fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, then I realize that unjust anger and bitterness are not of God. And I also realize that it's me screwing all that up as much as anyone else. And the whole point is that none of us can plug up his ears, and there is nothing edifying about pointing at one another--you see? We are to be pointing each other toward God, looking toward him ourselves, even if we do that badly and in the midst of sin, and there's no getting around the fact that that's how it will go.

"See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many."Heb. 12:15

And "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, who for the joy set before him, endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."Heb. 12:1-2

Sunday, November 8, 2009

limerick time

Pants-Off Dance-Off

There once was a girl with no pants
Who neither wore skirts and would prance
Around sans-culotte
Just look at her go
With only one thing to do: dance.

'Cause pants? They're restricting, not free
They're better off ripped off, you see
You can't feel the air
Unless you run bare
So off with them, then run with me

The Economy, or My Career as a Rap Artist

I write now because I am poor
I'll stare at this taped to my door
Don't have no cash
Did something rash
Good thing words are worth more

Yeah that's what they say and it's crap
Turns out that someone's a sap
Flat out, I'm broke
No money, poor folk
And that's how I started to rap

G-G-Gangster

This girl is gangster, she rhymes
Spits lyrics, rides bikes and mimes
She's Southern to boot
And will steal your loot
And takes part in mischief and crime

She steals things like paper and books
And won't take crap from those crooks
Who say it's not cool
To hang out at school
But truth: she's as fly as she looks

Saturday, November 7, 2009

i said no more emo posts, but oops, it's 10:43 and here i go again

How do I write about what I'm not thinking about--I'm asking around it. How do I not write what I'm thinking about, but that's not quite right because it's something like how can I keep myself from writing about something in me and that's part of it, but it's not what I'm trying to say. I don't want to write about what I want to write about, what I've sat quiet thinking about for an hour and a half. I want to keep it in me because it puts me in a dangerous place, makes me close to the line that asks me to make decisions out of impatience, out of want for something that wouldn't be right right now, that I can't want right now, that wouldn't be right even if I could.

I don't know how not to write about it. I don't want to write about it, because I know that I am in a precarious place right now, and being careful about things affects more than just me, and sticking to wise is better than batting eyes at want.

So what do you do? Good question, is all I can think to say. Write about how I made it all week without Sun Drop. And how I'm twisting my ring around my finger trying to think--not of what to say, but of what else to say. Thinking about how my friend who edited my submission for the collection our seminar class is putting together, how she corrected where I used how the way I'm using it now. How grammatically it doesn't say what I'm using it to mean. My grammar is messy, and it's Southern. It's inconsistent and my comma placement is too (you see?), and so is my capitalization, italicizing, all of it. I write how I think? And it's all wrong, Chicago says. I have mixed feelings about this. I don't want to sound like I can't control this language, but there it is. There it is. I've got something. I can't control it anymore than I can control the thoughts and feelings that work their way into words. It's no wonder I'm not able to write what isn't pushing to be written, no wonder I can't even write that sentence to say what I want.

It's words and they're that vehicle, that carrier of meaning but I can't change the meaning, so everything waterfalls over that. Here's the metaphor: the stones, they're the meaning, the riverbed, and the water is rushing over and sometimes it's winding, dabbling, trickling, these words that aren't quite the right ones--the water is the words. And I'm picking up silt, or the water is, or the water's mixing in and now it's cloudy and the stones are wearing into years worth of something learned. And they don't look like what they'll look like in ten years, but already the metaphor's gone, it's lost, it doesn't work. It gets away from me, this language I can't control. Too fast, too big.

I'm trying too hard now. Thinking about wanting to lie in the river after the accident in Romania. It's forced, it's trying too hard. I don't want the ending to come, I don't want an ending that's been built to, that comes around. I don't want a good ending, I want to not make any sense at all because that's how I feel, I feel like I'm not making any sense in thinking about the line I've toed, because I've just got to turn this toward God. It's just got to be that.

Friday, November 6, 2009

getting it right

I meant to write about the Bob Dylan quote I put up last night but I was just exhausted and I figure the quote is pretty stand-alone anyway. What I wanted to write about stemmed from one line in particular: "If anything, I wanted to understand things and then be free of them." This line really struck me.

What's funny is that it's been popping up in that thematic sort of way things tend to do, and I'm starting to realize how, when things do that, it's probably that God's trying to tell me something, to teach me. I think about that, and in all this I'm not exactly sure yet what it is I'm meant to be taught, but there's something there, because whether the quote came first or not--I can't remember--this sort of idea has been coming up everywhere.

I think I've talked about this before, but I'm thinking about understanding something, working it out, writing it down, and then being free of it. And the particular context I'm thinking of, I don't know that I would use the word free, but--actually, yes, I remember I have talked about it because I likened it to, like Dave Eggers said, shedding skin. But I've realized that I don't really hold onto things. Again, that's not exactly it, but thinking about some of the crazy things that have happened to me (ask), I just sort of take it, process it, come to some sort of understanding, however stilted, and then keep going, shoulder into it and try to use it, make it into something good, because what else do you do? Life won't stop. I'm thinking that maybe this is a flawed approach, and probably it is, but that just means there's an opportunity to learn and understand better and to grow.

But then there are the things that I don't move on as easily from, although it's hit and miss--there seems to be no rule to figure which experience falls on what side of this, at least not one I've recognized yet. And those--they're the strange ones, because they'll sit with me, just really heavy and really detailed, precise, until finally I write it out. Writing really is cathartic, and in this case it's even more than that. I'll write it out of compulsion, but then it really is shed skin. It's a summary of 'this crazy thing that happened to me once' in a bag of crazy things that have happened to me. It's almost, I don't know-- for me there's something distasteful about it, hanging out dirty laundry or whatever that expression is. But it's removed from me, and often I don't even remember how whatever it is happened, I remember it as the story I wrote.

It's like Bob Dylan says. I want to understand those things. I don't know about that second half though. Do I want to be free of them? I don't want to forget, not ever, and these things are important to me, things that have shaped me. Probably it's easier for me to say this since they do feel so removed--they're real, they've been hard, but they don't affect my day-to-day life. Shoulder into it, keep on living. All of that. If I mean to say I want a freedom from it, it's in that ability to go on and grow, and so maybe the compromise is writing it down. I understand, I'm free from the negative parts, and then I can take it and work it into good.

I don't know about this. I realize I'm being vague. 'These things' that have happened to me, but I'm not saying what. Again, ask and I'd love to share. But after writing about a lot of it already, lately I've just had a distaste for it. Like parading around dirty laundry, being flashy about ugly things--the term that comes to mind here is tell-all--and while I know there is merit in those things, when you use them for good, for edification, but right now for me it just feels like bad form.

I'm coming to the last line in the the quote: "You might be able to put it all into one paragraph or into one verse of song if you could get it right." That's what I want to come to, but in the meantime I cranking out paragraphs and paragraphs and it's a whole dense mess a lot of times, interesting to no one but me in my endless introspection, but if I could get it into a line or two, an essay--well, I'm not looking for value or justification in all of it, but there, if everything else turned out to be worthless, that's where it'd be worth it. And I'll tell you: I don't feel like I'm building any new life either. It could never be that--if there are things, people, experiences that I never had, then those places have been filled with bits of everywhere, everyone, everything. Outside of salvation, of course, there is no moment of new life, no point where the old one is turned in. It's all a mishmash, and it's new every day.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

quote-of-the-day

Compliments of Jamie:

"If I was building any new kind of life to live, it really didn't seem that way. It's not as if I had turned in any old one to live it. If anything, I wanted to understand things and then be free of them. I needed to learn how to telescope things, ideas. Things were too big to see all at once, like all the books in the library--everything laying around on all the tables. You might be able to put it all into one paragraph or into one verse of song if you could get it right."
- Bob Dylan, Chronicles: Volume One

about loving music

First things first: I think I'm gonna stop writing these posts late at night in an effort to be less emo.

That said, here's what's on the mind: music. I'm not really one of those people who knows a ton about music. I'm pretty easy to please, and although my favorite kinds are movie music and chill music, like they say, I'll listen to almost anything. I grew up listening to country with my neighbors and later, when I was a little older, just regular top forty. I always joke that I'm not very cultured, and while it's less true now I suppose, my brother and I didn't grow up in a way that would turn us into young adults with knowledge of wines and art, the Louvre and literature and music, good music.

And of course, what's good music, anyway? Well I don't know, how would I know? So following my half joke that I'm uncultured, I tell my friends to teach me, to show me music. So before I tell you the rest of this, first I want to say that one of my favorite things is to listen to people talk about what they're passionate about. I think it's, in part, just because I get really excited about things and then love it when other people do too, and also because when I'm feeling awkward or not sure what to talk about, the easiest thing for me to do is to get the other person talking about what they care about, because people really love to do that and it makes it easier for me when I need it to be.

So getting my friends to share their music with me was two-fold. On the one hand I wouldn't be the kid who didn't know All You Need Is Love is by the Beatles, and on the other I'd get to know about the things that other people really love which is always interesting and oftentimes serves to take the pressure off me.

And since then, I've learned so much about music. And here's the thing. It hasn't just been in one genre. I'll tell you something that's a pet peeve of mine and I hope it isn't pretentious and I hope I'm not that way about books, but I hate when people profess to love something, and we'll use music as the example, who are really into music, but all they love is screamo. All they care about and listen to and talk about and say is good is this one type of music, and to that I say, you don't love music, you love this type of music. Just like people who only love literary books don't love books, they love a certain type of literature. Maybe love is the wrong word for this. I think it is. What I'm talking about specifically is a friend of mine who will listen to any type of music as long as it's music, and he may not like it, but he can appreciate it. He recognizes the things that are good in it. He doesn't love metal or bluegrass exclusively, but he loves music and he appreciates it.

I'm not sure where I'm going with this from here, but tonight I listened to Porcupine Tree. Something I never ever in a million years would have listened to on my own, a band I've heard of kind of off and on for a little less than a year, but have never taken any initiative with at all. And I really liked some of it. Not all of it--not that I disliked any of it, but there were definitely parts that struck me more than others. And on top of that, this particular album came with a book of photography and I got goosebumps looking through it. I'll tell you what. You never really know. I'm learning to listen better, to people I mean, and it's funny how it works out when the vehicle is already your ears.

I could list the bands I've been introduced to in the last year or so, the music I've come to love, to appreciate, and the music I haven't. I love music, but I don't think I'll ever be one of those people who really loves music, who knows a lot about bands and different genres and decades and all of that. I just like to sit back and feel it, and words are my thing anyway, the first thing I ever began collecting and listening to and trying to create with.

And I'm learning that listening isn't just giving people the space to talk or share the things they love, but it's meeting in what's shared, something like taking it by the hand. And when you let go sometimes you find, there in your own hand, you've come away with your own piece of what they love.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

just sort of a collection of thoughts

This always seems to happen. And it's always with my hair. And the funny thing is, I'm not a crazy hair kind of person. I'm a pretty average, dark hair kind of person. But my roommate was upstairs and she was putting this reddish stuff in her hair, cinnaberry something, and then there was extra in the bottle and before I knew it, there I was rationalizing it for about three seconds, saying, well in the sun my hair gets reddish highlights and I tried to do purple streaks last semester and it didn't turn out and then the stuff was in my hair. It actually kind of worked out because my hair's so dark--not quite black, but about as dark as you can get without actually being black--and there's little short of bleaching it that holds. So cinnaberry in my hair turned about to be something more like a really dark red/purple that still looks pretty natural and you can only really see in the sun. More like the suggestion of red/purple rather than red/purple itself. Well, then. Here's to that whim.

Today it was the coldest it's been yet, although I doubt it got below fifty, and I started shivering for the first time since I was in Romania. And a few nights ago I learned four chords on a guitar and played them for two or three hours, mostly just trying not to be scared, but my fingertips on my left hand still feel strange, they way they do when they're un-numbing after being in the cold. And I will say that trying to play a guitar, that playing a guitar very badly helps a lot with being scared (more on this later, most likely when it's daylight), and although the part of me that loves hands objects, I'll take the funny feeling fingertips.

And now it's daylight savings time, fall backward. And it was almost dark riding my bike home twenty after five. And I'm just thinking about things, everything kind of scattered. Scattered thoughts, everything bits and pieces and I'm certain this all fits together somehow. I'm thinking about the movie I should never have seen, how going to bed at night has been really hard for over two weeks. And daylight savings time, winter getting closer. This all sounds very dark but I don't mean it like that. As always I'm thinking about the way the air feels. And movement. I'm not sure how that terrible movie relates to that, but I feel like there's movement in the direction of something big, and I don't know what. But it has to do with it getting colder, and I don't know how to type that in any way that doesn't sound like I'm being emo.

I think the thing is just that I've got a lot of things floating around in my head, and it all wants to be processed and understood and fit together, and I feel like it does fit, like there is some sense to be made of it all.

I'm just thinking. I'm looking forward to this: driving eighteen hours or however many it is to URBANA. I can't tell you why, except I love car trips and I'm excited that we're leaving the night before and driving through till morning. But I'm looking forward to it more than pre-Turkey Day Celebration and even when Christmas break starts. Everything else'll be stressful in one way or another, but there's nothing like just riding. And talking and listening to music and watching the lights in the dark, and unfolding the country between here and St. Louis in a car full of people you'd rather be with than anyone else.

Monday, November 2, 2009

one part words, two parts music, and equal parts /to create/

I'm listening to the soundtrack from Blood Diamond again. I've been listening to it for days, and probably I'll go on listening to it for another week or two. I always do this--if I find something I'm interested in, it's nearly all you'll hear from me until there's something else, and it could be a few days or a year, depending on the nature of the thing that's gotten my interest. Of course, for anyone who knows me or has been reading this for a while, I suppose it's obvious enough. I just go through phases, and you can see how what I'm thinking about fluxes and changes and grows. What does that mean? Who knows, although I'm sure it could mean a hundred different things. What do I mean? Thanks for listening, for bearing with me, for caring.

The reason I'm thinking about this is that I was having a conversation last night with one of my friends and he was telling me about a person he knows who refuses to depend on anyone, not physically or emotionally. And I can't understand that at all. I mean, I can, I can understand why it happens and what makes people that way, and to be perfectly honest, with everything that happened with my family, I might have gone that route as surely as I've gone another. So while I'm trying to suspend judgement (is that the right phrase?) and be understanding, there's also this: we were created to be in relationships. To be in relationship with the Father and with one another.

I know this is a blog and it's the internet and often it's as weird as it is good, and I know most people would say that it doesn't count on here. And I do prefer a lot of the time to sit with people and talk about life with them. To lie on my living room floor or sit on the swing by the turtle pond on campus and just talk and talk. And while I do process verbally, work things out in conversation and come to understand things by talking them out, I'm way more coherent when I write. It takes a lot of time spent with me to figure out what I mean when I talk, I think, but in writing it's just much easier to articulate things. Perfect world? I would have those amazing conversations with people who also care enough that they read my blog, and I could reciprocate that too, listen to the other ways they communicate as well.

So that said, I'm so thankful for this sort of thing, blogging and all that and everyone who takes the time to read. I was talking to one of my roommates earlier (the Colombian one) and I realized how much it really does mean to me when I find out people have been reading things I write--just another way of caring for me. And as far as being relational? Well, of course I don't only relate this way, and I wouldn't want to. I could never not depend on anyone, not share life and thoughts and conversation and hopes and all of that stuff with the people I care about, and this is one of those ways of sharing. And it's pretty neat what it can turn into, what can come out of it (hello Jenny!), so you never really know, I guess.


So, if you haven't listened to the soundtrack from Blood Diamond and you like soundtracks, you should think about picking it up. It's incredible. I've sort of gotten on an African music kick, lately. There are songs on the Tsotsi soundtrack I've been doing this with too. I still don't know how to embed just music, so I've found some youtube videos. This one's probably my favorite from Blood Diamond, and once I figure out how to embed music I've got on my computer, I'll put a couple up from Tsotsi.



Cool thing for me about soundtracks and scores in general: I don't generally need words. I mean, words are great, I love words! They're my favorite thing! But in music, it feels to me like something more true. That's not what I mean, how do I say what I mean? People who love music way more than I do have said this way better than I have, but I mean something like it's more purely emotion. And particularly for me when it's in a soundtrack, because it's already telling a story. A funny twist on that is music in other languages, like this stuff from Blood Diamond. It'd be different if it were a language I could pick words out of, but the language they sing in (Krio, I'm guessing, only because that's the one they speak in Sierre Leone, although English is the official one) is something so unfamiliar to me that it could just be sounds.

There's a band my friend Matt loves called Sigur Ros and they're from Iceland and they have this whole album where they sing in a completely invented language called Hopelandic. It's not translatable, exactly. It's just emotic syllables. I'm digressing a ton, but what I'm talking about is the knack music has for expressing things I can't get at any other way, and if the sounds of Krio are to me that--sounds that don't mean to me what they're meant to represent--then, when put to music, I begin to understand something.

"Words seem so indefinable, so inexact, so easy to misunderstand compared with real music, which fills the soul with a thousand better feelings. What is expressed to me by music that I love is not too vague to be put into words, on the contrary, too precise."
--Felix Mendelssohn

Why do I write then? Well I don't think it's useless, by any means, and they certainly have no monopoly on expression. It's a compulsion, probably. Most times I can't not write, and when I can't, I don't. I love to write, and there are things that words can do as well as music, and vice versa, and there are also things that words do better. Actually, here I am typing this and I haven't even really thought it out, I'm just kind of thinking as I go. I think the real answer has less to do with what mode of expression better express and more to do with:

"The human impulse to create reflects our being created in the image of a creator God."
--from the back cover of Art and the Bible

Friday, October 30, 2009

quote-of-the-day

“In Zen, the world is nothing, man is nothing, everything is nothing, but Zen poetry says it so beautifully, so much more beautifully than the underground press. Swearing in four-letter words, the underground press often declares that man is nothing, the world is nothing, nothing is nothing. And one thinks to himself, "Ah, but if it were said with some beauty, maybe there would be something." And then Zen comes along as a high art form and gives this message with beauty. And now you're dead twice."
--Francis A. Schaeffer

Thursday, October 29, 2009

"war is a force that gives us meaning"

I'm reading a book called War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning, and when I first saw it, it was sitting on my roommate's desk and I had to do a doubletake. It gives us meaning? What, like it has inherent meaning, and we've got to have war in order to have that meaning? My first thought: well, less a thought and more of reaction, equal parts stunned and disbelief. Just sort of like, really? Are you serious? But then it turned more into, well, what is this? What's this actually about? And I kept seeing it when I'd get dressed in the morning so I finally asked my roommate about it and started to read it this weekend.

It hasn't been what I expected. He's talked mostly about the negative effects of war, how it feeds off of and bolsters lies between people, how destructive it is, how it becomes alluring, a drug even, because it allows people to be what they aren't outside of war, allows them to help in ways they might not have normally. A lot of interesting things. Sometimes I'm reading and I'm seeing pretty eye to eye with him, and other times I want to put the book down and not pick it back up. He's pretty against any sort of organized religion because of the conflict he says it causes. And oh goodness, I wish I could really write about what he's talking about, but you'll have to read it. It's interesting, to say the least. And I'm learning a ton about all the conflict between the Serbs, the Muslims, and the Croats. And considering the potential proximity I might be having with Muslim communities (more on that later), it's fascinating.

Anyway, from the introduction, after he (Chris Hedges) has written for sixteen pages about all the evils of war:

"And yet, despite all this, I am not a pacifist. I respect and admire the qualities of professional soldiers. Without the determination and leadership of soldiers like Wesley K. Clark we might not have intervened in Kosovo or Bosnia. It was, in the end, a general, Ulysses S. Grant who saved the union. Even as I detest the pestilence that is war and fear its deadly addiction, even as I see it lead states and groups towards self-immolation, even as I concede that it is war that has left millions of dead and maimed across the planet, I, like most reporters in Sarajevo and Kosovo, desperately hoped for armed intervention. The poison that is war does not free us from the ethics of responsibility." (emphasis mine)

I don't really know where I stand with all of this. I don't want to say either way because, as with most things political in nature (or just controversial anyway), I don't feel like I'm informed enough to say. And even if I were, I haven't given it nearly enough thought or conversation to have formed any thoughts I won't change my mind on later.

That said, that last line blows me away. Sounds like something I can stand behind.

And even as I type that I'm listening to the soundtrack to Blood Diamond, thinking about Sierra Leone and the RUF and how in the movie, how in 1999 they were cutting off people's arms. And King Leopold did this in the Congo. There is no justice in that. That is not just, nothing about it is right or fair or good. And if I say that I am a de facto pacifist, if I say that I hope for peace among the nations--and I do--does that mean that by default of my political ideologies, I do nothing?

The things is--and I'm still figuring this all out, but--I don't think so. What does that mean for me? For Sara, college student, very limited realm of influence? Well, I'm not sure. But it moves in me, makes me want for some sort of action, justice. I just don't know what that looks like yet.

Monday, October 26, 2009

surprising

This month it's been heavy heavy heavy, just one post after another, and so I promise I've got a funny one coming up, a story about how I was trapped hiding underneath a comforter on my couch because a cable guy had come into my living room and I wasn't wearing pants. So until then, if you'll give me one more, I've got another one to write out.

I know it's the same thing again and again, and mostly this is for me I suppose, mostly I'm just processing and feeling this out. I do know that I'm continually surprised by how much I find myself caring about the kinds of things I write on here, and I say that more as a testament to how God will sow things into your heart in ways you don't guess. And I'm just like, well I'll take it then. Hrmmm. Right. I know it's boring to read about the same thing over and over, so from this point on, I'm strictly processing, and feel free to wait till the next post, or read at your own risk.

I'm going on about movies again. The thing is, I put them on as background while I work on homework or when I want to wind down but I'm not in the mood to read, so I do watch then fairly frequently. And on the one hand, I can think of a hundred reasons why I shouldn't be watching them. It really probably is better to read, I like to be outside, and as much as I like to see things that rile me up as far as what I care about, I don't want to become desensitized. But I saw this movie called Tsotsi last night. And first of all, that movie is just gold mine, linguistically. They speak in this language called Tsotsitaal, which is a creole of I don't even know how many languages. Afrikaans, English, Xhosa, Tswana, Zulu--not sure what else. It's funny because listening to it, you could hear the English words very clearly. It takes the grammar of one language (usually Afrikaans?) and uses words and expressions from all the different languages. And it was originally a gangster language. Just amazing. Countries like South Africa and half the European countries--they're so lingual, it just blows my mind.

So anyway, I was watching and I thought it was really good, and in the end it wasn't a movie that moved me necessarily, but all of a sudden I was just crying, and not like my eyes teared up crying, but sniffling and running nose and eyes all red and my face all twisted up, which hasn't happened since Return of the King. And again, it wasn't because it was one of those movies that floored me. I was thinking about the main character. How hard life had been to him, and how hardened he had become. And I know that, even though we're all broken, we're born into sin, all of that, we don't start off as hardened as that. And it just hit me, how hard life is, how it makes people. And it's just all so messed up and there I was crying for the way that's real and I half couldn't believe it because it wasn't exactly the movie making me do it, and I don't know. It's overwhelming. I think that's something I'll almost certainly encounter in mission work, and heck, that's everybody, everywhere. And what can you do in the face of something so big like that? I've said it before, but there's this tug and I want to help. Most times I could care less about sending money (as guilty as I feel about that) but I wouldn't think twice about spending all my money to go there, wherever there is, and help--I'd be over there in a heartbeat, but how could I help? What do you do? It's just so big.

And the surprising thing about all that is this: one the one hand, when I see stuff like this, when I read things in these books I'm reading, the desire to go, to just go and serve is getting stronger. But on the other hand, the more into this semester I get, the more I want to stay. It's part that as I'm investing in more people's lives, as I pray for them more and know them more, I don't want to leave them. I've always thought that since I'm not particularly close to my family (I would miss them, of course, but I've kind of been doing my own thing for the last four years) and I'm single, there's not really anything tying me down, and I could just go. But then I start thinking about my roommates and friends and the people who are my family in InterVarsity and all the people here that I love and I can't imagine not having relationships with them like I do now. I never thought I'd think twice about leaving, but here I am on what might be the edge of it and suddenly I'm hesitating, wondering how could I leave this behind?

So I'm just sort of a mix of things, right now. On the one hand, ready to go because it breaks my heart not to, because there's just this pull toward it, and I know that it's in my future somewhere. But I'm realizing now that it's starting to be just as hard to leave. So what next? As always, we'll see. I'm kind of one foot in the door, one out, just praying, now, and I don't know. Mm.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

i'm thinking in themes again

I've never been the kind of writer who walks around with whole plots (or even parts, really) in my head, lists of characters and their stories and traits and all of that. At best, I'll have a picture of a scene, kind of a feeling of it, and I'll want to make it into a story but I don't usually know how. I'll tell you this: those writers who walk around with nine novels in their heads they've never gotten around to writing down--I will never be one of those. Maybe that's why, in the end, I chose nonfiction as my focus, instead of fiction. It's easy to say I picked it because I could just write about all the crazy things that have happened in my life, how God's been in all of that. If I couldn't fill a whole book, then I could at least get something undergrad-thesis-length out of it. But I don't think that's it either. In any case, when someone makes me write something less memoir-y, use more research based stuff, the essay is generally better and I do really enjoy it.

I think it's something different than all of that, though. I've noticed lately, while doing mundane things like walking to the bathroom or washing my hands or taking out the trash, that I'm thinking in themes. Not in a 'I want my story to be about friendship or hope' way. More like connecting things I hadn't thought about connecting, realizing how they could go together, how something good could be built off it based on that union.

I'll give you an example. One of the stories in my thesis is about amputees, phantom limbs, and as per usual for me (buh), not knowing my dad. The other day I was thinking about how the name of the place where I was born--Camp Lejeune--has roots in the French language (sort of ironic, all things considered, but for reasons that I'll get to eventually, hopefully). Le jeune, like el joven. The young person, the young one. Youngin', as we'd say, to make it a one word noun. And then June, my middle name. June comes from Juno which comes from the latin iuvenis, young man. Like juvenile. I want to write something about how young I feel, how I feel like I've got so much catching up to do, how, even though there's a lot I understand much differently than other people, there's so much more I don't get yet. About being young and full of fire (that goes both good and bad ways, good as in passion, bad as in reading something I wrote six months ago and thinking, how obnoxious!). And the way that connects to the roots of the words that mean things to me, are connected with pieces of my life. What the goddess Juno was like, the people in France called Les Jeunes, etc.

I have all these things I want to shape stories around, things that make the story mean something. Except a lot of times I don't feel like I have the story. It's like I'm working backwards. I don't want to write competent, clean stories. I want to write things that people feel, that make them want for something good. My friend Tristan once told me, back when I was sort of wishy-washy about God, that I was going to be a Christian writer, but a cool one like Don Miller. Well, I don't know about that, but it would be pretty cool, and the more I think about it, the more I want it. What am I talking about? I just want to write. But I've never really known what about, beyond writing about my life. But that's the thing, I almost don't want to write about that anymore, because I feel like there's just better stuff I could write about.

I don't know where I'm going with this, really. If I can, if I'm able to take these things, these lines and the pictures and the feelings and make them into something, stringing in little parts about how a few words can outline a whole part of a life--well, I'd like that. I think it'd be pretty neat.

Monday, October 19, 2009

quote-of-the-day

“If you’ve seen the piece, you’ll remember that David’s right hand is huge, ribbed with life-like veins. Biblical legend, of course, would have him preparing to slay the more powerful Goliath. In Michelangelo’s own time, Florence was surrounded by neighboring bully states; in part, David represented Florence in her courage and pluck. Still, the hand is not a fist. David is capable of so much more than violence.

Circling the towering piece, I couldn’t help wondering about that hand today. Sure, we can throw stones, program ‘smart’ bombs, build walls. But doesn’t it also suggest the amazing creativity, the amazing good we can do with our hands? Michelangelo—painter, sculptor, architect, man—used his own right hand to such glory and beauty and inspired purpose. Five hundred years later, we’re still lining up to sit in wonder. I think of the Muslim man who painted the icon I bought in Jerusalem last month. I think of Cheryl Anderson raising her hand to direct the Chancel Choir, Stan Poplin pulling his bow across the strings of a bass. And a healing circle of friends. And communion shared in the jail. We are capable of such magic, such mystery, such love—with our hands, with our fingers, with the choices we make.

Michelangelo seems to have known that, seems to have delighted in it. In his Renaissance, God was no longer a sky-bound despot, a jealous and judgmental emperor. Instead, David celebrates God’s partnership with human loving, with human creativity, with human responsibility. God is with us! God is in David’s hand; and David is in God’s!...

Next to the towering, alert David, this Pieta seems lost. The former is so alive, so tense, so ready for life. The latter is sad, riddled by grief and loss, tangled in the cords of death. But there’s something that ties the two together, something that strangely links them. It’s Mary’s hand. In death, Jesus is held, truly and tenderly held. Mary’s hand is every bit as powerful as David’s, every bit as human and kind. The Pieta from Palestrina insists on strength as compassion, courage as tenderness, creativity as touch. Again, God is not distant, vicious, abstract. God is in Mary’s hand; and she is in God’s….

Less than a month now and I’ll return to you and to our life together in Santa Cruz. I know that we, too, are capable of magic, mystery, love. By the light of grace, in the spirit of Christ, we breathe new life into our neighborhoods and families. We bless the earth. We invest in peace….

I look forward to that week, and I imagine that Michelangelo’s David and his other work, the Pieta from Palestrina, will join me somehow. What grace, what tenderness, what power is in our hands.”

--Dave Grishaw-Jones

the plan

Thanks to Kristy Johnson, I'm on The Plan. Here's the problem. I've gotta quit drinking Sun Drop. Not altogether, mind you, but I just think I drink too much. I don't actually have a hard time not drinking it when I'm somewhere where I can't get it (basically anywhere out of state), so I know it's completely a psychological thing. And as these things usually go for me, after trying for forever to quit and never being able to go more than a day or two without it, suddenly it clicked and basically I've gone cold turkey. Kind of.

The Plan, officially, is no Sun Drop during the week, but Friday through Sunday I can have it. I had some Saturday night because I knew I could, but I didn't really want it too badly. Didn't have any yesterday. And am having some right now sort of for the heck of it, but not because I'm really craving it or anything. We'll see how this next week goes, and I'll tell you, I do love Sun Drop and I don't ever want to give up completely, but for the sake of being able to not drink it when I could if I wanted. I feel like I've been cleaning up life lately (again, kind of) and maybe this is just another thing? Who knows, but I'm doing it now and I couldn't before and who knows why, so I figure what the heck, why not?

In other news? Five weeks without a phone, and I got one about a week ago. Which means I'm very poor now, but it's kind of nice having one again. By nice I mean something more like convenient--I don't have to borrow everyone else's and feel guilty about it or tell people to call other people if they need to get ahold of me or use facebook chat as an actual means of communication. But checking for missed calls or text message feels like a facebook sort of addiction all over again. I'm over it now, mostly, but at first I sort of wished I could have gone on without having one.

That, and I love southern accents, I'ma just say. And I'm feeling particularly proud of being from North Carolina (Nohth Kehrlahna, if I'm saying it quickly enough, that second r barely being pronounced) as of late. And there's this website I found a few months ago, one of the coolest things ever, called the International Dialects of English Archive. You can listen to English speakers with all sorts of accents and dialects from all over the world, it's amazing. The North Carolina list isn't as accurately representative as it could be, I think, since a lot of the speakers were from Greensboro, which sounds pretty similar to how people in Atlanta talk, and there are a ton more accents in the state than that one. But it's still such a cool, amazing thing. I can't tell you how much time I've spent listening to recordings on this site.

It's a weird night though. Don't know how to end this one. I almost always say that when I don't know how to end, and if I end by saying I don't know how, then I'm copping out. Where's that ending? Well, maybe I'm copping out, but here we go again, so here I go again, Sun Drop to my left and Jamie's stories to my right, and what a way that is to end a Sunday, at least.