Wednesday, February 29, 2012

World at Our Fingertips

In my last post, I talked about living with the world at our fingertips. And that is true. When we need something, it is right there. Within reach. Immediately.

And with our world so close, my question is this: why are we so determined not to touch it?

What I mean is that we have changed the definition of world to be more about facts, figures, position, and appearances than community, people, love, and strength. Our world is what we can read in wikipedia, and if it doesn't make a good entry, we can't seem to fathom it. And on the opposite extreme, we become aware of problems in distant regions that we now have a connection to thanks to our technology. Third-world problems have become the cause for "first-world" charity. We send money, food, clothing, etc. without a care.

Then we look at the homeless in our own community and scowl at them, refuse to give them the same charity as a village in Africa because we know the village isn't "spending the money on booze."

Because we feel for these people and with the aid of our technology, we never have to touch them.

The truth is, we are growing further apart because of this world within reach. Everything is so much nearer, but we have distanced ourselves from it and continue to do so. Did you know that my college roommate and I used to sit in the same dorm room, three feet apart from each other, and instant message instead of actually talk? We send text messages (well, I don't; I don't text. Really.) instead of picking up a phone. We click off an email instead of writing a letter. And if you don't look like your Facebook photo, hardly anyone will recognize you on the streets.

There are so few people who know anybody else these days. (And sadly, few who know themselves.) We let our technology speak for us and tell the world who we are. Always on the Blackberry? You must be important. And earpieces aren't just for the secret service any more. The list goes on. And it's sad.

When I was growing up, I knew all of my neighbors. I've moved since then, and I had to Google my new neighbors' names because we're rarely outside together. If I needed a cup of sugar (or one of them did), we wouldn't buddy up and borrrow; we'd head to the nearest grocery store. There are people I see every Sunday at church who know more about me from Facebook than anywhere else because...we don't talk. We haven't had lunch together. We haven't been over to each other's houses. We don't do anything together except read snippets of our lives and funny quips we've heard and words we've played with friends.

We're growing apart, when the world is right here for our taking. When we have the power to deeply connect, to share something more knowledgeable and meaningful than we ever have before. When we can talk with someone half a world away like they are right here in our living room....and we are hesitant, if not terrified, to touch our world.

I think our world needs touched. I think we need to connect, life to life and heart to heart. Inside each of us, there is that place that wants, more than anything, to be known and understands that we're getting further away from that. We need our communities back. Our neighborhoods. Our families, even. And yes, our very lives. Because it is in true community that we live and thrive and love.

We need to get back to knowing each other instead of just knowing about each other.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Timing is Everything

Very frequently, I look around and suspect I'm living in the wrong era. I am of the last generation that can remember a time before all of this technology, a time when we played outside and didn't worry about much, when we built things out of sticks and chased each other and climbed trees. Things were simpler then.

I look around today at all that we have, all that even children have, and it makes me very sad. (Yes, I understand the irony of posting such a thing on the Internet, but such is life.) I'm just not into all of this technology; I don't think it improves our quality of life, but maybe that's just me. I don't own a smartphone, nor do I have any desire to do so. In fact, because that is all that my phone company offers in terms of upgrades, I have had the same phone for almost four years and don't plan on trading that in any time soon. I don't have a laptop and never have, even though I may have to scrounge one up if I take a certain job that seems to be laying itself on the table. We'll see. I just think that if I'm going somewhere that isn't my home, that isn't my work, where my computer simply isn't, that it's ok to be unreachable. It's ok to take in what I am doing, to live in the present, and to just be. I don't feel like I have to be constantly connected.

That makes me vastly different than my world. I understand that. And it's not the only way I just haven't caught up. I still use a VCR, which is more trouble these days with the cable company's accelerated technology (that doesn't allow me to record something I am not watching...I mostly record while I'm sleeping if I need to see something). I have an 8-track in the dining room, built into the same cabinet as my phonograph (that's a record player). My car has a cassette player. There's a CD changer in the trunk, but I don't ever change the discs out. I'm content with the radio. I like to walk, when I can. I don't have wireless access to anything. I don't have high-speed internet; I'm using dial-up when I need to use this Internet, and though some people curse at its slowness, it doesn't bother me. I find it a good test of patience and some bonus time to let life be.

Because life has gotten too fast. Everything is go, go, go, and so it's no wonder we have more stress and distress in our world because nobody feels like they can just be, be, be these days. I often wonder, the way this society clashes with my inner sense of pretty much everything, when I would have been better off living. What era speaks to me?

And what I have decided is this:

I belong sometime after the widespread implementation of indoor flush toilets and radio....and sometime before a great deal of other technology. Television is nice, but I consider it optional. As far as I know, you never go around quoting TV to comfort or strengthen or serenade yourself; it's always music. I need my music. And I need my fancy sewer system that takes things elsewhere. Anything else is negotiable.

I'm not saying these days are evil. I'm not saying there aren't some fantastic inventions and advances in our society that have come in the past 50 years or so. I am thankful for the various of translations of our Bible, that allow me to hear from God in a new way. I am thankful for the developments of social justice, equality, etc - in women's rights and the breaking of racial barriers. These have enhanced our community, no question. I'm thrilled with things like duct tape. But I just don't see the need to live in a world where everything is at my fingertips. It takes something away from the joy of life for me.

Which is why, when my tax refund comes in the mail (and yes, I mailed it in with an actual envelope and a 45-cent stamp), I am investing in something simpler - a new bicycle. Because I miss riding. Because there's something about it that is better than a car, at least for me. My old bike got ruined in the flood of 2008, warped and rusted beyond any reasonable ride-ability. And because I found this beautiful bicycle at Wal-Mart that is nostalgic, a little bit retro and absolutely elegant, a simple cruiser - none of those complicated gears that we all thought was a brilliant idea in the 90s when they became the standard even though most of us never figured out what we were supposed to do with them, especially in the flatlands of Indiana - something that speaks to me. Wanna take a look?

I have something else to say about this world of ours, this so-called advanced technology and a world at our fingertips. More on that next time...

Thursday, February 23, 2012


So..are you like me and look in the mirror every so often and think, "I really ought to do something with my hair"?

I'm in one of those mindsets right now. My hair is longer than it has been in a long time, hanging just past my shoulders. It's in that awkward growth phase where it's enough to drive my neck crazy but not enough to put into a substantive pony tail yet. While I could tie it back, it would be so ridiculous that there are no words to describe the little nub that would hang off the back of my head.

I look in the mirror, especially on a day like today when I know I have a job interview coming up, and it just....hangs there. And I think, I really ought to do something with my hair.

Then there's this:

I have no earthly idea what to do with my hair.

It's been kind of a constant theme in my life. When I was little, it hung almost to my knees until I took a stand for independence around 3rd grade and bowled it. That's right - chopped it all off to a super short bowl-bob (something in-between) that the stylist was hesitant to do because she knew my mother, but I assured her my mom wouldn't kill her. At least, I didn't think so. Then I went through a phase of growing it out to about where it is now (8th grade) and then shaving it military-style during high school and keeping it spiky for many, many years. When I got sick, it grew out and then when God started putting my strength back in me, I cut it all short again. And then I really got into pinks and browns and feminine cuts in my clothes, and I decided I'm never going that route again.

Maybe it's my mannish, long face, but the pixie cut isn't for me. Or maybe it is. Like I said - I have no idea what to do with my hair.

My mannish features are a bit of a problem. I get them from my mom, and she'll admit that. But the cuts that I like - those awesome shaggy layered looks - just make me look like Justin Bieber or any number of high school boys playing guitar to attract the girls. No, really. I look like the young men I have had crushes on, and a physical attraction to, as a young woman. I don't want to LOOK LIKE them. I want them looking at me!

And the other problem is that I can't put any product in my hair, and I wouldn't trust myself with a curling iron (my hands are prone to shake). That makes it difficult to find the right cut that is feminine, professional, AND easy to maintain, that can just lay there and not look stupid or requires minimal upkeep.

I so want to be that sassy and professional woman who looks the role of a communicator, servant, and friend. And I want something that reflects who I am at my core. So when I'm standing in the mirror watching my long hair fall just over my shoulders, I'm constantly thinking, "I really ought to do something with my hair."

But I just don't know what to do with my hair.

So I look again a few hours out of the shower and my hair is doing that awesome flipping-up thing right around my neckline like a 1950s housewife or a character in Mad Men...and I guess it's ok.

Until I figure out what to do with it.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

No Excuse


We all have them, millions of them. Every day. We have excuses to keep us from doing what is good. We have excuses for justifying what we have done that is wrong. We have explanations, rationalizations, backstories - excuses - for just about everything.

Then we mourn our emptiness and wonder why we just aren't getting there. Why we aren't where we want to be, where we think we should be.

And we have an excuse for that, too. But beneath it all, our excuse is always...our excuses.

Now, I know myself fairly well and know the excuse traps I'm vulnerable to get caught up in. I don't want to spend the money. I don't have the time. Nobody probably wants me to. And so on. But I'm challenging those excuses head-on and taking them down before they can take hold.

Case in point:

Two nights ago, I was engaged in a long prayer, an overdue talk with my God. When I get the itch to pray and feel like I need something more to my words, I turn to my prayer journal, its pages filled with a heart crying out to the Lord, and I write. (I feel like if I write some of these things down, I am more likely to hold myself to them. It's not about whether God hears me better; it is for me.) I've had this journal since this urge first struck me back in, oh, 2008. The other night, after penning an Amen and sitting for a moment, I saw that my journal is finally nearly full. There are only a few blank pages left.

For a split second, I wondered what I would do when I didn't have it any more. Until the obvious answer smacked me upside the head - I'd buy a new one, a second prayer journal.

None of my excuses stood in the way, none of the difficult back-and-forth I've become used to when I'm about to do something, especially make a purchase. (I'm unemployed, ok? Money is tight, even though I'm fully aware I have never had a need in my life. My God is good.)

But it was more than that. Taking that trip to Barnes & Noble, spending a good ten or fifteen minutes going through their selection of journals, picking out just the right one, blessing it in my hands and feeling like God was present right there in that was the interception of an excuse in the making.

Because I know myself. And I know that if I had no empty pages to fill, I would look at my full prayer journal with a sigh and simply say, "I guess I'm not going to pray because I have nothing to pray with" when the vulnerabilities of my heart were looking for something more tangible than a spoken word floating on air. I knew my prayer life would suffer, then die, if I procrastinated. Because I would always say I didn't have it, that nothing else was right, then sigh myself into resignation and forget about it if I wasn't thinking about it at the moment. Time would pass, and it would be simply....nothing.

There are a million excuses out there, but none sufficient to stand between me and my God.

What excuses are defining your life and what can you do today, right now, to take them down before they take hold?

Monday, February 20, 2012

Honor About

Although I don't have children of my own (yet), I have the great honor of being an aunt to two nephews and a niece. I'm kind of an odd duck in my family and enjoy some things that these children would not be exposed to without me, and it is really cool to be able to share that with them. With their parents' permission, of course.

My niece and oldest nephew (siblings) have been to church a handful of times, though their mother is a devout atheist (if there could be such a thing) and my brother has dabbled here or there but never shown much interest in organized religion. But they want their children to be exposed and to come to their own conclusions and at one point, even talked about placing these two kids in a youth group to give them that chance. That never happened, but they do spend some time with Aunt Aidan.

Yesterday morning, my nephew woke up and walked into my room while I was reading my Bible. I read a few pages every morning; it is routine, and my day is not right without it. I have read out loud to all three of these children in my life at some point or another, but the two oldest in particular are getting to that age where they can ask questions. He didn't ask any yesterday, but he just sat on my lap and let me read. I consider that a special moment.

Several weeks ago, in early December, I was honored that they both finally answered "yes" to an invitation to church. Every time they spend the weekend at my house, I offer to take them, but they usually opt to stay with grandma. (And grandmas are awesome.) December, though, they wanted to go. I happily piled them into the back of my car, which my nephew loves because it is little and red like the racecar in his favorite movie. He feels special riding in my car and just smiles all the way. We stayed in the service for the music, then wandered around to see all the sights and to find all the different places in the church that kids were playing and singing and coloring and having fun. I could tell they were just soaking it all in, but I wasn't aware how much of an impact it had.

Until the next week and the weeks to come when my sister-in-law told me the children were repeatedly playing "church" at home. I suppose in the way you would play school or house or doctor. They aren't really old enough to understand Jesus, the message of His love, the Cross, or any of the meat of Christ yet, but they were old enough to get a memory of this place and play church. So this past weekend when they came to visit, the first words out of my niece's mouth were: I want to go to church. And of course, her little brother piped up and said he had to go to.

It's really cool to me to take these kids and introduce them, even a little, to the God I love so dearly. I can't wait (and perhaps I have waited too long?) until I can talk to them about God, about Christ, about His sacrifice. I can't wait until they pester me with questions about why we sing or why we come together or why we pass around a snack or what all those people are doing up there or what the water is for or what the Bible means or what the cross is or why it matters. I am anxiously awaiting that day.

Because while it's an honor for me to play this small role in their lives, it is an honor to God. It's all about Him.

And I would love to see His love in their hearts.

Sometimes, I think I'm missing a key window. They are smarter than they let on, more attentive than they pretend. Maybe they are already having these questions. Maybe their little minds are already turning, trying to figure it all out. Maybe they want to ask but aren't sure what they want to ask or how to ask it. I could probably do a better job of being proactive about it. I wonder how you talk to kids and put God on their level....


Friday, February 17, 2012


I'm very fond of the simple things in life. A nice doodle, a beautiful afternoon, puppies playing, the way the wind blows through the chimes. Call me nostalgic, but I have always been this way. I find that living simply gets me more excited about life in general.

Because I'm not always waiting on the greatest thing to come along; I am savoring everything. Like this morning. It's trash day, which means all my trash was sitting out at the curb when the sun rose. (As a side note, I like it when trash disappears. Life just feels lighter. But for those of you keeping score, the recycling bin was overflowing. Save the planet!) I happened to be walking by the air purifier in the dining room, looking around to see what I needed to do before my niece and nephew get here for the weekend. And I just happened to notice the filter light flashing. I changed the filter and hauled the old, dust-covered, months-old used one right out to the curb, where the magical garbage truck took it away. If I hadn't noticed...or had waited an hour longer...I'd have had to deal with that dust for another week. But this small incidence of perfect timing made me exceedingly happy and energized me.

And then there's this: I got some birthday money this week. It's the same birthday money I get every year, and I never really know what to spend it on. This year, I spent it on socks. Yes, socks. And I got giddy. Now, it's no secret I basically live in my jams when I'm around the house and I'm known for bare feet, but in these colder months, socks make sense. And they are oh so comfortable. There's something tactilely and aesthetically pleasing about new socks. I can't think of a better way to have spent part of that birthday money. The rest, I am saving because honestly, there's nothing I NEED. A few wants, as all of us have, but my God takes exceptional care of me.

I am very, very blessed and I'm just content. I love the simple things. The small things that I think so many of us overlook every day. And the small things that are right now headed to spend the weekend with me - I love them, too.

What about you? Are you content to live simple or are you hanging your life on the next biggest, greatest, grandest thing to happen?

Thursday, February 16, 2012


I am very encouraged.

You might think this would be normal for me, but I want to say this might be the first time in my life I have been encouraged in quite this way. Because you see, I have found that there is freedom in encouragement, and I never would have thought that.

I've always lived as though encouragement is a burden. When someone says something kind or gracious about your gifts or skills, don't you sometimes feel like that just puts an added weight on your shoulders that now you have to live up to that? I mean, thanks...I think.

And then there's that part in me - and I think it's in all of us - that wonders if someone is telling the truth. There are two sides to that coin. There is the insecure side that wonders if the encouraging word is spoken with the tone of someone congratulating a puppy for pottying on the paper. That condescending, "aww...that's a good try," tone, like the world is applauding you for attempting anything because they never would have expected it from you and want to build your confidence in yourself even if, heaven forbid, you really aren't that great. And then there's the false humility side that knows you're sitting on a tremendous gift and isn't quite sure what to make of the compliment.

Either way, it's weird to be on the receiving end. For the longest time, I'll admit - I never even said thank you. I just hung my head and kind of shuffled away. Compliments and encouragement had that heavy feeling for me and they always made a million thoughts run through my head, few if any of them positive.

But here lately, the people around me - friends, family, church, life - places I would expect and those I wouldn't, have been tremendously encouraging. And I'm learning to take it. With honest humility and not in a prideful or arrogant way. In a way that acknowledges quietly to myself, and with a simple thank you aloud, the presence of God in my life. It started a few weeks ago, but it really hit me this past few days as people have had wonderful words for me.

Then when I wasn't really thinking about it, it hit me. I wasn't analyzing this encouragement. I wasn't rolling it around in my head. It simply was, and it lightened my spirit. It filled me with joy. It put a smile on my face.

What was the difference?

The truth. Authenticity. For the first time in my life, I have enough self-awareness to understand that what people are speaking about (and speaking to) is something real in me. It is something actual and honest and God-given. Nothing hiding behind the shadows. Nothing impure or fraud-laden. God has been so gracious to me in the recent months and years, extending to me an invitation to live authentically. From that first moment He touched that fake place in my heart and shattered it, I knew what my life had been missing. It was this. And now, I'm tapping into that. And I don't feel like I'm hiding any more. I don't feel like I'm jumping from place to place, living elusive, trying to prove myself, or trying to find "it." I just am. I am, in glory and in tatters, all He has created me to be.

So that's what it was that changed encouragement from a burden to a blessing for me. From words I would dwell on and ruminate over until they were excruciating into words that just sink into my heart and let me breathe. It's authenticity. It is living in a way that knows that what this world is speaking to, what I am showing, what I am living, and how I am real. To its absolute depths. Fully.

Have you found encouragement to be sometimes, well, discouraging? Why do you think that is in your life? Are you perhaps living in the shadows and knowing those words speak to something less than the whole you?

Thursday, February 9, 2012

In the Bag

For the past several years, I have had a recurring dream. It's a fairly common one - that one where you're back in school and you don't know your schedule, then you realize there are some classes you haven't shown up to all year. Not because you were blowing them off but because there just didn't seem to be time and you always missed them for one reason or another. But mostly, you're just lost. Like you're just walking around the halls with this nagging feeling you're supposed to be doing something but this terrible despair because you don't know the details.

I had one for awhile where I had to repeat fifth grade. I spent most of my fifth grade year MIA for various reasons, but I think I finally resolved that dream. This lack of schedule dream, has plagued me.

The last time I had it, just before I woke up, I inserted myself into my own dream with partially conscious thinking and willed myself to the main office. The secretary was kind as I explained that I thought I'd missed an entire semester or two of classes but was really hoping to kick it in and manage to make up the work. She printed me a copy of my schedule, and I was staring at it with a dumbfounded "I'm enrolled in this?" look when I woke up.

Last night, I had that dream again. It's always the same school - not a real school but this massive monstrosity of backward hallways and slow elevators and about 7 stories of high school. Yes, it's massive. And last night, as always, I was late for some class, but I didn't know what class, whether I had the right books, where the class met. I was already preparing to introduce myself to the teacher and explain why I hadn't been around for the better part of the whole shebang. But really, I didn't know where I was going. Nobody I asked did, either. They just shrugged and kind of looked at me while I stood at the elevator that was ignoring my call button request and skipping right past floor six every time.

Then, I looked in my bag. I don't know why, but I did. And there it was - the schedule I'd forced myself to get in my last dream.

And suddenly, it was ok. I knew where I was going. I knew I hadn't been there and would likely lag behind considerably. I knew if I was going to get the credit, I had to really bust my behind to catch up. But it was ok. Everything was ok. This sense of peace came over me; I finally knew where I was supposed to be going. I finally had a direction.

So I did the only logical thing possible - I trekked to the cafeteria where, with a few loved ones I felt like I hadn't talked to in ages, though I knew we had been around each other quite often, had lunch. Piled my plate high full of delicious food, food that I wanted to eat without any reservation. Piles of the biggest bacon you've ever seen in your life, heaping spoonfuls of pasta salad, fresh fruit, shredded salad, cheeses and meats, and a whole rack of cake. Yes, the cake came in racks! And I simply enjoyed the meal.

I woke up full, looking at my schedule again. But this time, not worried about things. Content. Just ok.

I know there is more meaning behind this dream. And don't think me freaky - I'm not one of those types that thinks every dream is revolutionary and meaningful; some are just weird and crazy and the combination of being too tired and too weird and watching too much television. But every once in awhile, my dreams put better words to my heart that my awake mind can. And if, in the process, I conquer another recurring dream, then all the better.

Now, onto that one where your teeth just crumble to dust and fall out.... THAT one's creepy.

Friday, February 3, 2012

What You Look Like

Whatever you look like, it's not anything close to your driver's license photo. I went this morning to renew my license, and let's just say that's never a pleasant experience.

Don't get me wrong; I have excellent BMV luck. I'm usually in and out in under 10 minutes, often under 5. It's always pleasant and gets the job done. But license photos for just no fun.

I had one I really liked. Once. I even used it as my online profile photo; it was THAT good. Then my most recent photo came in my awkward phase with short, spiky hair and a slightly baggy t-shirt that you could tell even from the neckline was a little weird. And I just looked at that picture and thought, "WHAT is that?"

So instead of renewing online and saving that half-woman, half-boy picture for yet another six years, I have painstakingly put the effort into making sure my hair and eyes were just right for a new picture in a new year. Something that might actually look like me for the next six years. Or at least, closer to me.

Sitting in front of the camera, the employee started laying out the rules. Take your glasses off. Sit in the chair. No. Kind of slump forward so you're right in the frame. That's good. Push your hair back so we can see the sides of your head. Now, you can smile, but you can't show any teeth. You have to keep your mouth closed. Look straight ahead. Actually, look down just a little at the bottom of this thing here...

Ok, I can't even see the thing. I have my glasses off. What are you pointing at?


So you show up hunched over, squinty-eyed, with your hair shoved off behind you (despite your attempts at actually making it look good today), with an awkward smile on your face because you're not sure if your teeth are showing or if you've gone too far into that stupid grin that makes you look "special" and there's no countdown on that camera, so out of nowhere it caught you trying to adjust and follow all the rules...

And there you are. For the next six years.


Then the woman has the nerve - the NERVE - to look at you and go, "Ooh! That's a good one! We'll go back over here now." and walk away. When she hands you the receipt with your new picture, your temporary license (the new one now arrives in the mail within about 10 days), you see that "good photo" and start comparing it to Heather Locklear's drunken mugshot. Yeah, it's about accurate.

I realize that when she said "Good," I got excited. I thought i'd pulled it off and taken a decent driver's license photo. All the work and effort that went into it paid off. But in that moment, staring at myself, I was only thinking, "She meant 'good' in the sadistic way. Like a secret society within the BMV where they all try to take terrible photos, then laugh at locking people into THAT image for the next six years."

The cackle should have given it away.