Cocktails for Spiritual Dissatisfaction (with items you already have at home!)

cocktails

Once upon a time in my apartment, I sat down to write some fictional drivel. After using the adjective, “wispy,” for the third time, I got bored and put down my laptop, deciding to go back to my roots of pen and paper. I searched through my shelf-and-a-half of journals for an empty one, finally grabbing one at random, hoping to find an empty page.

The journal fell open to an entry from 2007: “Last night I had one of the most intense and spiritual dreams of my life that made my daily reality fall into the correct perspective of fleeting and my eternal reality come to the forefront. I saw clearer in my sleep than in most of my waking hours.”

Silence. Here I was, ready to jot down some truly amazing, creative, compelling, best-selling fiction, and I was confronted with this.

A swell of intense emotion rose up inside me. Anger. I was angry with Stephanie from 2007. She had it so easy. Why wasn’t my current daily life as vibrant with eternal reality? Life was so complicated now.

I spent the next hour in prayer, talking to God in absolute transparency about areas of conviction, fear, and hopelessness, weaving a complex web of theories about the core of my issues and the equally long map toward freedom and wholeness.

While I knew the Spirit was present, I said, “Amen,” feeling icky as I brushed my teeth and fell into bed, as if I’d left a coffee date with a friend knowing something was unsaid or a false light was cast on a particular issue. Something was off.

Morning came and I glanced through my curated list of deficiencies with prescribed pathways to success and hit the road, again feeling icky. I took a long swig of my coffee.

Woah, I’m really thirsty.

Another swig of coffee.

Bleck, I need good old fashioned water. There’s water in coffee; why isn’t this helping?

Suddenly, the foggy, unarticulated ickyness lifted. I was over-complicating something that was very simple. I was so smart I was stupid. I needed water.

My premise that life was complicated led me to believe the solution was equally complex. After all, I am much more mature than I was in 2007, right? If I was thirsty, water seemed far too simple for a woman as advanced as me. Olympic athletes drink a complex cocktail of electrolytes, minerals, vitamins and probably some other enhancements (Lance Armstrong, cough cough). Surely my spiritual thirst required the same. Right?

Wrong.

My deep thirst was from a lack of the basic, essential water of truth. Instead of prescribing myself with coffee or Gatorade or that nasty, rancid, mushroom tea (is it called kam-boom-boom-pow?), I needed to LOSE the additives of rhetoric and complex knowledge in favor of the deeper truth of Christ and him crucified.

Additives are easy to accept because they make water a little more tolerable. On a trip to Uganda, we encouraged the team to bring single packs of Crystal Lite and Propel so it could disguise the sometimes offensive but mostly boring taste of the local water. Similarly, the naked truth of the gospel can be hard to swallow, even for Christians.

See if any of these spiritual cocktails ring true for you:

Jesus is Lord (1 cup of water), but I’m his favorite so SOMETIMES it’s all about me (1 cup of corn syrup).

I’m a servant of God (1 cup of water), but this is my five-year season of receiving (1 cup of caffeine).

I’m called to take up my cross (1 cup of water), but Jesus suffered so I would never have to (1 cup of BPA, gluten, Chinese lead).

My flesh will ALWAYS try to grab control, glory, and focus away from Jesus, the Lord of glory, and make my faith about ME. This is why vigilance, urgency, and spiritual discipline are so important. At a deeper level, this is why humility is the requisite of Christianity: because in the end, going low, no matter how hydrated I am or bored I am of the taste of water or mature I think I am, will keep me alive. My flesh is still an enemy of my spirit. When revelations run out, it is usually because of a lack of remembrance.

I took communion with brothers and sisters on Sunday, thanking God for his kindness and foresight to remind me that the simple elements I need to be healthy are Jesus’ body broken and blood poured out. I am not so unique and my problems are not so complex that the water of the Word, the air of His Spirit, the food of His body, cannot cure what ails my soul.

My life-goal should not be to find the most delicious gospel+me cocktail possible, but to lay down my life for a perfect God. It is all about him. It’s so simple. It’s so essential. It’s water, and I’m very thirsty.

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Posted in Adversity, Theology & Philosophy, Uncategorized | 8 Comments

White Shoes Permitted Beyond This Point

Happy Labor Day!

No, it’s not Memorial Day. That’s in May.

Oh, you’re scratching your head wondering what this holiday is about, too? That’s funny, so was I until recent years. Even now I have to remind myself that it’s about more than the last three-day weekend we get before the busy fall schedule is in full swing. Nowadays, Labor Day is generally marked by:

  • BBQ’s and family time.
  • Sales at your favorite shopping centers.
  • Symbolically the last day of summer.
  • The last day wearing white shoes is fashionably acceptable. (This trend has, in recent years, started to disappear. Go ahead. Wear your white shoes tomorrow. It’ll be okay.)
  • The beginning of the NFL and college football seasons.
  • The first day back to school (although this has changed in many schools).

Oddly enough, Labor Day does have historical significance beyond these modern observances . . .

Labor Day was celebrated for years before it was made a national holiday in various places around the US, starting with Union Square in New York in 1882. There are arguments about who actually came up with the idea, but it either came out of the Central Labor Union of New York, or the American Federation of Labor. Either way – it came from the labor union folks. Oregon was the very first state to recognize the holiday in 1887, which then sparked a trend catching on in other cities and states nation-wide. It seemed everyone thought it was a good idea to take a breather and recognize that hard work pays off. At least that’s my interpretation.

First Labor Day Parade, Union Square, 1882

While different sources will give us different years as to when it historically made its official debut, the Department of Labor (DOL) records that on June 28, 1894, Congress officially passed the act making Labor Day a national holiday.

In the earlier 1900’s, Labor Day was celebrated with parades and speeches and fireworks and grandeur. The Sunday preceding Labor Day was even made into “Labor Sunday”, calling for spiritual and educational reflections on labor (of which there are many!).

According to the Department of Labor, “Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.”

Essentially, it’s a day that we can reflect on the development of the United States of America. From the genius minds of inventors to the financial risk-takers to the calloused worker’s hands, the American people have built this country into one of the most prosperous in history. As a nation of individuality and opportunity, we have worked hard — together — and risen above even the very oldest and most established nations on the planet. We are a highly motivated people who work hard and enjoy the fruit of our labor.

I’d say that’s worth a day of remembrance . . . and a day off!

This is how the DOL puts it: “The vital force of labor added materially to the highest standard of living and the greatest production the world has ever known and has brought us closer to the realization of our traditional ideals of economic and political democracy. It is appropriate, therefore, that the nation pay tribute on Labor Day to the creator of so much of the nation’s strength, freedom, and leadership — the American worker.”

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Posted in Culture & Media, Current Events, History, Politics | Leave a comment

A Snap Shot of Church Community

I went downstairs to let the dog out and check on the work crew on our first floor. Six men from our church were in our home to help out. I’ve shared a few stories before about our home renovation and the progress we’ve made. But really, my husband has done most of the work himself. I help with projects from time to time and he’s had an occasional friend come for a Saturday.

The living room “situation” started with a leak in the ceiling over a year ago. The pipes in the bath tub leaked and ruined the ceiling, so we took down the whole ceiling just one month into living here. For over six months our ceiling was open to the floorboards in the bedroom above. The positive thing was that it allowed recessed light to be installed and I strung Christmas lights in the rafters. It’s been a summer 2012 goal to get the ceiling replaced and patch the walls, which were in terrible shape (thin paint and old wall paper peeling).

We’ve only been at the church since December. These are not life-long brothers, though I believe many will become that. Not one of them attended our wedding. But these men are part of this season of life. They know us as the couple who bought the fixer upper.

So, as I sit perched on my bed with the dog snoozing next to me, I am struck by this being such a clear picture of what the Church is all about. Helping hands, ready to serve. They gave up an evening with their wives and children. These men don’t get a direct benefit from giving their time, although I hope it will enable us to host a church gathering in the future. They selflessly gave their time, energy and skills (one is a licensed contractor and another an electrician) to benefit us.

The Church is about serving others, whether they’re church members or community members.

Originally published by dot in the city.

Posted in Relationships, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A Bridesmaid’s To-Do’s

One of my best friends just got married a couple of weekends ago. Sure, I have been in both of my sisters’ weddings in the past, but there is definitely something unique about sending a good friend down the aisle. Suddenly, all the bridesmaid responsibilities I had managed to evade previously caught up with me and I found myself calling my sister, by now a wedding expert, asking what in the world I should do.

Hopefully none of us will have an experience like Katherine Heigl in 27 Dresses, but chances are you too will find yourself in the position of bridesmaid or maid of honor at least once (if you haven’t already). Perhaps you have never had the privilege of this before and your friends are now starting to get married, or maybe the title isn’t new to you but didn’t quite feel like you knew what you were doing last time around.

Being a bridesmaid or maid of honor is more than just looking pretty, but many might not know quite what to expect or what is expected of them. Here are some tips and things to take into consideration if you find yourself in the honorable place of taking part in your friend’s wedding:

  • This event is not about you! Weddings are a great opportunity to practice the ever elusive virtue of selflessness. You may wish this wedding was your own, but it’s not. You may want to unwrap all the gifts, but you’ll have to wait until Christmas. Your friend’s wedding is about her and the great thing happening in her life, and it is your responsibility to serve and ensure this happens as flawlessly as possible. Don’t just show up and expect to look pretty . . . you have work to do. Be willing to put a considerable amount of time and effort into both helping the details come together and loving and supporting the bride. With that said . . . don’t get offended! It’s likely the bride might have a few moments that aren’t her best. Shake it off, practice grace, and move on.
  • Don’t be surprised to see a serious dent in your bank account. You might run on a tight budget, but like a lot of things that are important to us, taking your bridesmaid responsibilities seriously is going to cost you. There are of course the elements that are not entirely in your control: the dress, shoes and any required jewelry. But bridesmaids should also expect to help foot the bill for the wedding shower and bachelorette party. And although you may feel you have contributed you fair share in pre-wedding activities, these do not exempt you from buying an actual wedding gift.
  • Don’t be a diva. This goes for both your attitude and the way you look. If you don’t like your bridesmaid dress, get over it! And if you have to, pretend you and the other bridesmaids are actually friends. When it comes to hair and makeup, while you want to show the world the bride has good taste in friends by looking good, remember the bride has the spotlight. You should not look better than her/outshine her. It sounds harsh, but don’t detract attention from the bride by an excessive tan, exaggerated makeup, or a hairdo that looks even closely similar to her own. In every way you present yourself, create an atmosphere that highlights and encourages the bride.
  • The toast. This is neither an opportunity to exhibit your fabulous speaking skills nor shy away in fear! Typically, it is the duty of the maid of honor and best man to give toasts on behalf of the bride and groom. But it never hurts to have something prepared, even if you are not the maid of honor, just in case an open invitation for toasts is given. This is a great opportunity for you to say something heartfelt and encouraging. It doesn’t have to be elaborate or match the eloquence of presidential speech writers, but it should make the bride feel great about herself.
  • Know your responsibilities. If you are new to the wedding scene or just haven’t figured things out for some reason, there a couple of very specific obligations (if you can really call them that, because they can actually be quite fun) that should not be overlooked. It is the duty of the maid of honor to plan the wedding shower and bachelorette party, but bridesmaids are generally expected to contribute, help, and attend. If the maid of honor is not local, it will often fall on the shoulders of the local bridesmaids to do more of the planning. Don’t let these things fall through the cracks due to lack of communication. Others include sheltering the bride from mishaps and drama, and informing her of any traditions she might not be aware of but you know she might like to incorporate.
  • In the midst of the chaos, don’t forget about God. Weddings can get crazy and stressful in trying to get the details to come together in perfection. Bring peace and focus back into the equation by setting aside some time to pray over the bride on her wedding day. Practice love by speaking words of life, encouragement and truth throughout the planning process.
  • If in doubt, do your research. Your role as a bridesmaid is to serve the bride and make her life easier. With that said, it is best to walk into your duties with knowledge and at least a tentative plan. To make this happen, you might need to do some of your own research to find what you need to do to meet the specific needs of your bride.

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Posted in Being a Woman, Relationships, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

I’m Grateful Anyway

Joel and I at our first meeting with our social worker (almost two years ago).

Two years.

This October will mark two years in our adoption journey. It was the moment we finally stepped off the cliff and went tumbling down the rabbit hole. At the time, I was really afraid and didn’t know if we were really ready, but I was so sure that it was the right path. I was so sure that we were doing the right thing. Now, two years later, I still have a bed waiting for the little one that hasn’t come. I am still imagining what that little face will look like. I still have this space in my heart that is waiting to love our child — a child that is yet to arrive.

We began our journey in international adoption from Ethiopia. About six months and lots of money into it, the program became very unstable because of political issues and fraud in many orphanages there. The door slammed closed. We looked at all of our options and found a great local low-risk adoption agency that specializes in foster-adoption. We felt really good about making the switch but had to start much of our paperwork over and write more checks. Still, we were determined.

After some of our paperwork took a vacation on someone’s desk for five months, we were finally cleared in February to begin “child search”, in which we are actively looking for a child to be matched with. It is now August, and after a few very emotional and frustrating “almost matches”, I have become weary. I am just tired. My thoughts have turned from when it happens to if it happens. I have watch nearly every one of my friends get pregnant and have their babies in the time that I have been adopting. I have also watched other adoptive families welcome home their children in celebration. I have had many people forget we are adopting altogether. It stings and burns because it is our life. It is our every day life — the waiting. During that time, I gave into the very enticing temptation to slip into pouting. I gave myself over to the why me’s and the why not me’s. A couple of very patient friends patted me on the head and let me throw my tantrum.

Then one day, I began renewing my mind. I went back to the scriptures. I didn’t just flip to the verses listed under “encouragement” or “patience”. I just began to read. Nothing super spiritual or allegorical; I just began to put the pieces of my worldview back into place. And I began asking myself a question:

What reason do I have to be ungrateful?

No matter what I had planned or what I wanted for myself, the truth is that I am incredibly blessed. I have a husband who adores and respects me when so many women do not. I have carried and given birth to two precious, unique children when so many cannot. I have been given people to love with my whole heart and there are a few hearts that love me back, for just who I am. I have been trusted with passions and giftings when so many feel lost in their identities. What on earth could I expect for myself outside of these enormously beautiful realities?

Since I came to my faith, I have always been drawn to and clung to Isaiah 45:19: “I publicly proclaim bold promises. I do not whisper obscurities in some dark corner. I would not have told the people of Israel to seek me if I could not be found. I, the Lord, speak only what is true and declare only what is right.” For much of this time, I have been praying that God would bring about what he promised, that I would have the faith to believe that he will make it happen. The problem I’ve found with this is that He has not promised me an adoption. He has promised me that he will work everything together for my good and that his kingdom is coming to earth. My focus has been on trusting God to make this thing in my life happen, but I have discovered that real trust is believing that he is holding me in his hands and that whatever comes, he is still good.

I am not there yet, but I am beginning to let go of my expectations. Maybe I will get a call tomorrow to come pick up my baby, and I will cry tears of joy. Maybe a year from now I will still be waiting and trying to discipline my mind to see the world for what it truly is: something that does not revolve around me. It doesn’t matter how I felt the moment I began walking this road. It doesn’t matter how sure I was. Either way, I hope that I can be one who says, “I’m grateful anyway”, and mean it.

 

Posted in Adversity, Family, Marriage, Parenting | 6 Comments