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Monday, January 31, 2011

Fire and Snow

Job 2:10 "Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?"

What to write about? So many options! Time for a hodgepodge post. Here's a sampling of what's been going on in my mind today....
  1. My aunt and uncle had a house fire today. Everyone is okay, but there is a ton of damage—from fire, smoke, and water. We are obviously very grateful the Lord kept everyone safe and protected. But the insurance headaches and clean-up are going to be a nightmare. Plus, this is their fourth house fire in the last twenty-five years. Not exactly fair. There's a part of me that just wants to shake my angry fist at the forces of evil behind all this and tell them to leave my family the heck alone already. But that wouldn't be the ideal Christian response, so... I am trying to take my (very wise) grandma's advice by praying that God will bring something good out of this bad thing. We are claiming Romans 8:28 for them. "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." We would certainly appreciate any prayers you could offer up on their behalf as well. There's a lot more I could say about this, but here's the bottom line: The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.
  2. So as not to overwhelm you with too much heavy subject matter, here are some other (lighter) sundry thoughts from the day.... First off, I think party planning may be one of my underutilized talents. I hesitate to share the details, just in case that special someone *wink* might be reading. But suffice it to say that I have been having way too much fun recently preparing for a special event in the not-so-distant future.
  3. If you have never gone to a movie all by yourself... you really should. I mean, if you're never driven there alone, bought your ticket alone ("One, please"), and then sat in the theatre showing alone, with all 200+ seats to yourself... you really should give it a try. I had that experience tonight for probably the third time ever, and it was just as magical as before. Honestly, enjoying a private screening of a first-run movie is something you should put on your to-do-before-you-have-kids-and-zero-"me"-time list. I highly recommend it.
  4. On a completely random note, exercise is growing on me. I'm still nowhere near where I'd like to be, but progress is progress. I won't bore you with the details. But that rowing machine... awesome to the sweaty nth degree.
  5. Snowmageddon. Blizzard of 2011. Work-gets-cancelled-and-I-get-to-stay-home-building-snowforts-and-watching-movies... aka, Snow Day Extraordinaire. I'm not afraid to admit that I am fervently hoping that one (or all) of these do indeed come to pass before the week is over.
In an attempt to bring this all full circle, indulge me a James Taylor reference. Whether we experience metaphorical "fire and rain" or a literal raging house fire or a blinding snowstorm, our source of strength does not flicker or surge with the circumstances. God does not change. Now, things will never be safe. Never. Not so long as sin and Satan are allowed to roam this world (and I stress "allowed"). But we are not alone. Storms and flames will come and go. But Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

So... how was your Monday? Random thoughts welcome, obviously.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Big Waves and Bad Days

Matthew 6:34 "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."

(Parenthetical aside: My (ridiculously ambitious) 2011 blogging goal is to post regularly on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, but tomorrow I work all day and then have dinner plans with a couple and their four kids whom I haven't seen in like five years so... you do the math. And consider this the post I would have written tomorrow arriving one day early. Thanks!)

What a difference a day makes....

In the past twenty-four hours, I have pulled a complete 180 emotionally. Now, before you think I'm going all bipolar on you (although that wouldn't be an impossible possibility—how's that for a tidy little litote?), let me just say that I am so, so grateful that our human moods are fluid, ever-changing things, not static states we are condemned to inhabit for days or months on end. Sometimes the best antidote (or should I say, anti-dote, to rhyme with litote? But I digress.) ... As I was saying, sometimes the best antidote for a bad day is just to go to bed and start over tomorrow.

I have this theory that moods are like the weather. If you don't like it, just wait a few hours. It'll change. So yesterday, when I was having a particularly stormy, depressed, ugly, grey (I use the British spelling; my blog, my rules), basically awful sort of day emotionally, I should have heeded that advice and just called it a night, headed to bed, and waited for the "better tomorrow" to come (ala those Nyquil commercials).

This makes me wonder how many of those who suffer from true depression have lost this "light at the end of the tunnel" belief, having been stranded for so long in the dark that they forget the taste of sunshine.

I had a friend years ago who struggled with that. She felt like she was drowning, she said, and couldn't get enough air. No matter which way she swam, she never got any closer to the surface. My advice was, in retrospect, probably trite. Following the swimming metaphor, I told her that she wasn't really below the surface; it was just an illusion. She was panicking, and so she felt like she was further lost than she really was. In reality, I told her, she was just in between waves, stuck in the trough. An especially big trough, but nevertheless just an indentation between two rising waves. "Don't you see," I said, "if you just wait it out, sooner or later you'll catch the next wave and ride out of this low spot."

Cliches aside, I think the basic idea there holds true. All of us have those awful, gut-wrenching days where nothing seems to go right. I think a boy named Alexander once called it a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. But it was only one day. Not every day.

I leave you with this heartwarming relic of my (admittedly bookish) childhood. Enjoy... and if you're having a bad day, don't move to Australia. Apparently they even have bad days there.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Romanticizing the Past

"Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past." Isaiah 43:18

Sometimes a sunset is just more beautiful than a sunrise. For the purposes of this post, pretend that this is the origin of the phrase "wearing rose-colored glasses," that it's somehow based off being mesmerized by that gorgeous, glowing end of the day—and quite forgetting whatever flaws the day itself may have had. I find that all too easy to do. And when the past is draped in soft layers of orangey pink and sits there blooming over the horizon like a sky-sized Florida postcard, can you really blame me for looking at it with something between yearning and heartsick hope?

I have a nasty tendency to romanticize the past.

I say it's a nasty tendency because it makes me blind to the beauty of the present and, more often than not, keeps me from accurate recollection. It's easier to remember things at their best, and to some extent this is healthy. "Remember the good times." Isn't that the advice they give you? But how do you know if you're simply remembering things positively for the sake of preserving the best of the past, or if, instead, you are whitewashing controversies, sugarcoating tragedies, or even fabricating memories by "remembering" things that never happened at all?

This is my struggle. I know that I am not the only one to struggle with this, but I think I also probably obsess about it more than others.

So why the need to write about this right now? Because last night I dreamt of someone I have lost. Someone whom I can now experience only through the realm of memory. And if that realm is flawed, so is my experience of this precious person. Reality is lost in the chasm of the years, and all I can do is grasp after the way I remember things... a naturally flawed version of the truth.

Perhaps I should just let it go. Perhaps I should accept that my memory is what it is, and there is nothing I can do to improve it, no way to verify the accuracy of the moments I recall in my mind. If it is romanticized, so be it. Why begrudge myself the happy memories, regardless of whether they might be exaggerated or whether their true hue was less rosy than I remember it?

They—those same people who tell you to "remember the good times"—also admonish against what I have been doing: spending too much time (and energy and angst, etc.) looking backwards and not enough time (and hope and enthusiasm, etc.) focusing on the future. "You can't live in the past." That's what they tell me. To which I feel like replying in an angry roar, "Why NOT?! What's wrong with that? What if I like it better there, huh? What if that's where I feel most alive, most content, most at home? What if the present and the future are scary places I don't feel like facing?"

But my tirade ends with a reality check. I have a lot to look forward to. There are books to be read (and edited, or perhaps even written), movies to be watched, songs to be sung, forests to be explored, friends to be made, maybe even children to be parented, God willing. With so much to look forward to, why do I insist on spending inordinate amounts of time looking back, longingly, as if pleading for the diminishing images of the past to come back and grow larger in my vision instead of growing ever smaller with each passing day?

I am acutely aware that this post has become both far too personal and far too philosophical. But it's too late to write a new one now, so there you have it.

No neat solutions. No witty jokes. No winking allusions to pop culture or memes or self-effacing humor. This is where I am tonight. If I have depressed you, please forgive me. If I have made you think about your own memories and reconsider your perspective of the past, I hope it was worth the read. Either way, I welcome your responses.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Thanksgiving in January

Psalm 106:1 "Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever."

It's been exactly a year (tomorrow) since my last blog post.

I would feel overwhelmed with guilt, except that when I say "I've been really busy," it's not an exaggeration. These last 365 days have been amazing and wonderful and awful and crazy and blissful and... well, a little bit of every extreme emotion you'd expect to come on the heels of planning a wedding, buying a house, getting married, honeymooning, moving into said house, and gradually falling into the routine chaos of married life.

All in all, 2010 was BY FAR the best year of my life!

On the momentous event of my blog revival, I thought I would begin with a healthy discipline: making a list of things I'm thankful for. Sure, it's January, not November, but still... Thanksgiving is a state of mind, not just a holiday. (You may quote me.) Aphorisms aside, it does a body good to remember the blessings you've been given.

So, without further ado, here are 5 big reasons my life doesn't suck.
  1. My husband - This may seem like an obvious one, but our marriage was a loooong time coming. We dated over four years by the time of our wedding, so the fact that I can now call my best friend my "husband" instead of my "boyfriend"... Yeah, I'm pretty thankful for that. He's definitely my better half, my confidante, my partner in crime, and my favorite person on the face of the earth. (No offense to the rest of you, but he's my soul mate so... sorry, you just can't compete with that.)
  2. Family - My inlaws have treated me like one of their own almost from the beginning. And now that we're finally joined in holy wedlock, my family has decided to stop trying to get me to break up with Doug and has actually accepted the fact that we're a permanent item. Score! Better late than never, eh?
  3. Friends - I consider myself pretty darn lucky to still maintain close friendships with my best friends from high school. Over this past New Year's, a group of five of us went downtown to Chicago, toured the Trump Tower (courtesy of one friend's security guard pseudo-brother-in-law... yeah, it's confusing), gorged ourselves on the luscious fare of the Cheesecake Factory, and saw an awesome stage adaptation of Peter Pan... complete with Led Zeppelin music. I'm not even kidding.  
  4. Jobs - Both my husband and I are gainfully employed, which is pretty awesome in this economy. Beyond that, by and large, we both enjoy what we do and who we work with. And that sweet feeling of a paycheck every second Friday never gets old.
  5. Cats - I have two cats at home who make me feel loved and who make my house feel a little more like a home. You will likely be hearing more about them later, but for now, here's a quick character sketch of my furry, feline companions. Byron is the all-black, vocal, quick-footed, kisses-bestowing, neurotic cat after my own heart. His younger (adopted) brother Blake is the ash grey, quiet, heat-obsessed, lanky little cuddler. And in case you were wondering, yes, they were both named after the poets of the same names, Lord Byron and William Blake.
Now that we've got the "serious" blessings taken care of, here are some other sundry things I'm thankful for.
  • American Pickers on the History Channel. I'm watching it right now, in fact.
  • Diet Pepsi. My favorite drink of choice. I may or may not be obsessed with it. You be the judge. I own a Pepsi baseball cat, multiple t-shirts, a suitcase, and (here's the kicker) a two-foot square Pepsi clock, which hangs prominently on my kitchen wall.
  • Automatic car starters. I got one for Christmas, and wow, I had no idea how much I needed one! If you're ever short on a gift idea for someone who hates winter (such as myself), there's nothing better.
  • Microwave popcorn. Need I say more?
  • Music. There's nothing like the feeling of a good tune floating through your mind.
  • Beards. I know not every guy can grow one, but for those who can, don't waste it by shaving every day. They look so nice!
  • Contact lenses. Without these babies over my corneas, I'd be sporting some thick old Coke bottle eyegear. Not so attractive.
  • Libraries. I don't use mine nearly enough, but I am SO grateful for public institutions dedicating to preserving and sharing the beauty of the written word!

That's all for now. What are you thankful for?