Friday, March 18, 2011

Four-Leaf Clovers

(Note: Even though this is technically posted on 3/18, I wrote it on 3/17 and just now got the chance to post it. Also, it's very long, so if you read it, you get an imaginary gold star! Also also, this is one of those honest, deep, personal blogs--so run away if you hate that kind of thing.)

Most of the world refers to March 17th as St. Patrick’s Day (unless you’re my friend Desiree or my friend Eric, who call it their birthday). Me? I call it Birthday Eve. My birthday has always been and always will be on the day after St. Patrick’s Day. As a kid, I remember when people would say, “Make sure you remember to wear green on St. Patrick’s Day or you’ll get pinched,” I’d always reply by saying, “Oh, and make sure you wear pink on the day after, or I’ll slap you on the back of the head.” I was OBSESSED with pink from birth to about the age of twelve, and I thought everyone should honor my special day by wearing my favorite color. Of course, no one ever listened to me, and I knew better than to actually enforce the “head slapping” thing. My parents were teachers; if I ever did anything wrong at school, they found out about it one way or another.

Another one of my weird Birthday Eve traditions involved one of my weird hidden talents. I have this uncanny ability to find four-leaf clovers. There have been several times when I’ve just been walking along, not even looking for a four-leaf clover, and I’ll spot one. So I started a tradition of looking for four-leaf clovers every Birthday Eve. When I find the four-leaf clover, I always give it to the first person I see. That’s how the “Birthday Eve Four-Leaf Clover Finding Tradition” works. Most years, I’ve found one without even really looking for them. It’s been like those times when I just miraculously spot them. Sometimes, I really have to search for them. Sometimes, I just don’t find them, no matter how hard I look.

Last year, I couldn’t even find a patch of clover to search. The thing was, I was working most of the day and only had a few minutes to look between my jobs, so I just figured I’d search around my apartment. There aren’t that many patches of clover around my apartment, or at least there weren’t last year. This year, I found some patches of clover around my apartment, but I didn’t look long enough to find a four-leaf clover. For some reason, this year, it wasn’t that important.
Now, I don’t really believe in luck. I do believe I have some kind of weird and mostly useless ability to find four-leaf clovers (I think it does brighten other peoples’ days when I give them a clover I found, but other than that…useless). But there are times when that ability doesn’t work, and I have to really work in order to find one. Then there are times when I can work really hard and I still can’t find what I’m looking for. Sometimes, there’s just no clover to be found. Sometimes, I’m just too lazy to put any work into what I want to achieve.

That could apply to my writing. But we’ve been through that before. My problem most of the time in my writing is that I just don’t want to put in the effort it’s going to take to achieve my goals. Most of the time, I have the talent (which was given to me and I can’t claim any credit for). Sometimes it’s hard and takes work, but I do have the ability. I just have to work for it, even if I’m searching for ideas that I can’t quite see yet.

And there I’m going to end the writing analogy because I think everyone gets it.
And I’m going to get personal because I think it’s a good time for it. I kind of have an inability not to get squeamishly honest in my writing from time to time. If me spilling my guts in a blog makes you nervous, I suggest you stop reading now.

Most people who have known me for longer than a couple of years probably know the tragic story of how I got dumped on my 25th birthday. I’ll have been single for six years as of tomorrow. The people that know me really well already know that I’m still not quite exactly over this ended relationship—at least not to the point that most people want me to be over it.

When I went walking/jogging today, I decided to listen to this Rich Mullins tribute that “20: The Countdown Magazine with John Rivers” put on the radio almost exactly three and a half years ago when it was the 10th anniversary of Rich Mullins’ death. Yes, I recorded it on my mp3 player (I would call it an iPod, except for it’s not an iPod—it’s a dinosaur mp3 player that I’m very grateful to have, thank you very much). I’m that much of a Rich Mullins fanatic. The song “The Color Green” makes me think of St. Patrick’s Day/Birthday Eve, so I listened to that this morning, and it really put me in a Rich Mullins mood. So I listened to the tribute.

And there are a lot of reasons why I like Rich Mullins, but one of them has to do with the fact that I have drawn a lot of comfort in how he dealt with heartache in his own life (or at least the way he communicated how he dealt with heartache). His fiancé broke off their engagement and he never got married. I was never engaged, but I have to admit I really loved this guy who dumped me on my birthday. Still do...but not in any way that I'm willing to act on at this particular time and place in my life.

One of the songs I love most by Rich Mullins is called “The River,” and it’s about how he wanted to be physically closer to heaven, to God, but there’s also a verse about this girl he loved. “Maybe she could come to Wichita, and we could borrow Beaker’s bike. Let the road wind tie our hair in knots, let the speed and the freedom untangle the lies. Maybe fear can vanish before love. Oh God, don’t let this love be denied.” I’m not sure when he wrote this or what exactly was going on in his head while he was writing it, but I think I understand this conflict.
Sometimes I don’t know what I’m looking for.

I’m six years wiser than I was when I was 25. I’ve learned a lot about myself, and when I think about my amazing church family and the friends I have here where I am, when I look at the beautiful children God has given me to love and teach, there’s no way I can regret the life God’s given me. Still, I can’t deny that there’s times when I want to go out looking for a clover that probably doesn’t even exist anymore.

There’s times when I have a “Maybe…” verse to the song of my life. “Maybe he would come to seminary in Wake Forest, and we could start over from scratch.” “Maybe I could move back down to Gville and start rebuilding the friendship that has gradually dissolved into nothingness.” “Maybe God would just move in his heart to call me, to rekindle the friendship that I miss so much.” Sometimes, even six years later, I still cry out, “Oh God, don’t let this love be denied.”

But you know, Rich Mullins died single, and he was content. He was happy. And I’m single, and most days I’m pretty content with that. I have a lot more than I could ever deserve. In a manner of speaking, I have a lot more than I could ever desire.

Sometimes I go out and look for a mostly useless four-leaf clover in those little green patches around my apartment, when I’m forgetting that there’s a pot of gold I’ve been promised, and it’s just beyond the rainbow. I want things that are so much less than what I’ve already been given.
I already have Christ, and nothing in heaven or on earth or under the earth can take Him away from me.

He’s not a consolation prize, though sometimes I treat Him as such and sometimes married people act as if He’s something I have to settle for.

Another line in that Rich Mullins song? “I may lose every dream I dreamt that I could carry with me, but I’ve failed so many times. But You’ve never let me fall down alone.”

I’ve really been thinking lately about what that means. If I lost every dream, if I lost every thing that I held dear, I would still have Jesus. And for the first time in my life, I really think that I get it. He’s enough. I say that as I type on a borrowed computer, but I have a computer to type on. I say that as I have a roof over my head. I say that as I have food in my fridge and health in my body. I say that as I have all these dreams that haven’t died yet—the stories that I long to write, to sell so that others can read them. I have songs to sing, friends to encourage, life to live. These things are all gifts, but there’s so much more…

I have a God that sympathizes with my weaknesses. I have a God that knows I sometimes struggle. I have a God that loves me enough to accept me as I am, but too much to leave me there. He’s always growing me, always stretching me, always showing me that there’s something more I can learn about Him and His amazing grace.

I’m very grateful for these last six years—the five and a half years of winter season, and this new and glorious spring I’ve had for the past six months. I’m excited about what God’s doing now, and I want to be a part of it.

I’m just grateful He WANTS me to be part of it. I know I don’t deserve it.

And I think this year that when I went out looking for clover, I just didn’t really think it was worth looking for anymore. There are other ways I can spend my time and energy than on dwelling on things that I only think I want. I do believe the Lord wants me to love this guy. I don’t believe the Lord wants us to be together—or otherwise, we would be. I don’t think those two statements are at all in conflict; the conflict is just in me. I don’t need to know the reasons. I just need to trust.

I’ve been wrestling with this for about nine years (we had a weird friendship for 3 years prior to dating). I will probably continue to wrestle. Most days, I’m fine, but there are going to be times when it hurts. There will be times when I’ll want to go back out and search for the clover, forgetting the pot of gold beyond the rainbow.

But it’s when I seek first Him and His Kingdom that I’ll find all I really need.

I’m learning, slowly but surely. I’m learning because God loves me enough to teach me.

I am so grateful to be alive.


  1. It's good to be brutally honest and come clean once in a while, and you know what else is good? Pain. If you're going to be a writer, you have to have life experiences and profound emotions to call on when you need to describe them in moving detail. Sometimes when bad things happen in my life, I have to remind myself that "Hey, I can use this," and maybe my take on it will encourage or amuse a reader one day. Great blog by the way. I need to get this reaction survey thing on mine. Granted 95% of my responses will fall under funny, but who knows, maybe I'll get an "interesting"!

  2. I end up finding four-leaf clovers on my birthday too!