Wednesday, February 29, 2012


I haven't recovered from my insanely busy weekend, so I instead of writing something new, I dug up something I wrote in April of 2009.  The only changes I made to it were corrections of spelling errors (bane of my existence!).  So my age has changed since I wrote this, but not much else has changed!  Enjoy!

I like the taste of vanilla ice cream on a cone, especially the first taste. I anticipate the flavor, the feeling of cool, and yet it always takes me slightly by surprise--the sweetness, the cold on my tongue. Sometimes I can feel the cold tingle down my throat. I smell the cone with the taste, and memories I can't quite remember rise to the surface, and I'm left feeling warm despite the chill of the ice cream.

I like sunny days when I can sit in the shade and stare up at the blue blue sky with clouds that are so full I'd swear they were more than just fog and mist. I like rainy days, too, where the sun is masked by those clouds in a blanket so thick it looks like there aren't any clouds at all--just that the sky has turned gray. I like the feeling of rain when it just begins to sprinkle, lighting on my arms so that they tingle as if they were numb. Then the smell of rain comes and brings with it music--that rhythm that soothes as completely as the hidden sunlight.

I like the richness of the green grass, and the smell of green, the way the earth wakes up after a long, cold winter. I like the way life renews itself in strange bursts--like the silliness of the squirrels and birds chasing one another, the somewhat annoying presence of pollen everywhere, the simple beauty of all the colors in the flowers that we take for granted. I like that we get to experience that season, followed by the lazy days of summer, where I'm once again reminded of something I can't quite remember. Wet swimsuits, the smell of charcoal and citronella, the feeling of exuberance at parades and fireworks and family everywhere--corn on the cob and hamburgers. And then those days melt away into the slow sleep of autumn, when the leaves fall away and the air becomes crisp. The greens and yellows are replaced by golds and oranges, reds and browns. Nature slows down, yet speeds up, knowing there isn't much more time left to frolic and gather, plan and play. Then the cold comes, bringing Christmas! The memories I can't remember rush upon me then, almost 30 Christmases have come and gone, full of family and warmth, and Promise. The New Year comes, and it seems that I and the rest of the world are waiting, once again, for the earth to spring back to life. The months are long and cold and harsh, but even in the waiting is a beauty, a joy, a hope. Life will be renewed.

I like the smell of flowers, of earth, of air conditioner when you first turn it on after a long winter's rest. I like the smell of toast, of water, of clean laundry, of berries. I even like some bad smells, because they're so strong I just have to sniff again to experience the intensity. Smell is a gift that, like color, I often take for granted.

I like the sounds of music--of an orchestra tuning, a glorious cacophony awaiting the glorious symphony. I like the sounds of squeaky violin students, knowing that perhaps some of them might end up playing those glorious symphonies. I like the sound of percussion, of rock, of syncopated rhythms of joy and freedom, matched with skill and tempering. I like the sound of worshippers, careful, yet free, knowing that with every "Hosanna" they shout, they are only a breath away from shouting "Crucify"...and yet they sing. I like the sound of children laughing, children singing, slightly out of key, and not caring. They sing because they want to sing, and they cannot keep silent. I wish more grown ups were that way.

I like the feel of a warm bed and cool sheets, sleeping in the afternoon with the sun pouring its gold through cracks in the curtain on the window. I like sleeping in the early morning when the rain is pouring down. I like dreaming and waking without the alarm's dreadful drone. I like waking with it, too, when I know that there's a day ahead of me that I've never seen before, nor will ever see again.

I like the feeling of friends all around me, of their laughter and tears--of sharing my life with others. I like the feeling of being all alone in a room, with no one there to see me but God. I like the sound of silence, the sound of nothing, with its lack of being pressing so hard upon my eardrums that I do hear it echoing across the void around me. I like the way silence has a way of making me feel less alone and more alone at the same time. I like not being afraid of silence. I like not being afraid of being alone. I don't always achieve that; the only times when you can, I think, are when you've got nothing to hide.

I like the darkness, but only because darkness isn't dark to the Lord. I like that He sees us as we are, knowing that we take everything He's given us for granted. Yet He continues to be who He is, and the sun continues to come up, even if the clouds cover it so we can't see the blue of the sky.

I like the evening, when the sun goes down, bringing with it even more memories I'll probably never remember. I like the way the sun sinks down, and the blue sky grows darker. It's still blue... I like the way the whole earth feels, cooler, darker, but not always sadder. The night still shines like the day.

I like the wind, sometimes as cool and calming and soothing as a breeze that plays with my hair and whispers secrets of Forever into my ears, only I'm not smart or strong enough to hear them. Sometimes it's raging and wild, dangerous. I'm reminded of a roaring Lion, powerful and untamed. The storm may not always calm without ripping away at the structures I've built around myself...the breeze always follows.

I like living. I like life. I like having Someone worth living for. I like being. I know that the only reason I can be, is because He is.

I wonder how the world misses it. Life is here; life is now; life is abundant...

Sometimes it's hard. Sometimes it's easy to believe that we aren't worth it all. We're not. He is. And He gave us life...

So live.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Monday Blahg: Toddler Words

Toddlers are pretty much in the top ten list of my favorite things ever.  They've still got that "new kid smell."  Their heads are big and their bodies are little, so when they walk, they look like adorable little mobile bobble heads.  They're also great for snuggles and general cuteness.  I like the way everything is so new to them--everything is dramatic and exciting.  They're also learning about how this world works, which leads to a lot of funny and adorable situations.  I also love it when they start talking.

The other day I was just being weird (that happens a lot) and I pointed to one of the kid's hair bows.  I was holding another child, and I said, "Look at your friend's pretty hair bow.  It's so pretty and big.  In fact, it's tremendous."

The kid looked at me curiously, so I said, "Can you say 'TREMENDOUS'?"

The kid considered it a moment and said:


Yes.  I love toddlers.

Lately, though, I've realized that there is a certain "toddler word" in my vocabulary that I've been saying too much.  There's also a certain "toddler word" that I haven't been saying enough. 

The first of these "toddler" words is "MINE."  I've been saying "MINE" far too much lately.  I've been getting upset if something interrupts MY schedule or MY time or MY agenda.  I've been getting angry if someone suggests I give a little of MY energy to them.  I've been stressed because I feel as though I haven't had the time to do the things that I want to do.

...but time doesn't belong to me.  I can call it "MINE" all I want, but that doesn't change the fact that I'm just a steward.  God has given me the time that I have, so it really belongs to Him.  Yes, He's called me to do some things with the time that He's given me, but that does NOT give me the right to get upset if something interferes with the plans that I've made, even if they coincide with things He's given me to do.  His schedule isn't my schedule.  Sometimes I feel as though I've got to get things done according to MY plans--when really, life is going to be full of detours, and sometimes those are God-breathed, too.  I'm reminded that everything that comes my way is filtered through grace.  God has allowed it.  If there's an interruption to the plans I've made, then God has allowed that interruption.  It might set me back a little in the things I want to do or feel as though I need to do, but it also allows me two opportunities: the opportunity to trust God, and the opportunity to show love to others.  I can't say I've succeeded in either of those things lately, but God does give more grace.  God uses even my failures to shape me into His image, which is part of the mysterious beauty of grace.

The "toddler word" I haven't been saying enough lately is "NO."  I need to be more flexible.  I need to stop looking at time as "MINE."  At the same time, I have to realize that I'm not Wonder Woman.  There is a point when I have to say that I can't do something--not because I'm being stingy with the time I've been given, but because there are other things that I need to be working on--or simply because I need rest.  I tend to want to please everyone, but that isn't possible.  And when I over-commit, I tend to not do anything as well as I could be doing it.  Sometimes, and perhaps even usually, it's better to commit to a few things and devote my full energy to those few things, instead of trying to take on everything at once.  ...because in the end, I just get frazzled and cranky, and no one likes a frazzled and cranky me--especially not me.

So, basically, life got interrupted and I didn't accomplish most of the goals I had for last week.  But...

-- I ran seven miles at one time (PERSONAL BEST!)--ten miles total for the week.  I'm probably going to be registering for a half marathon in a few days, after hammering out some details.  The seven miles was HARD, and the thought of running almost twice that makes me want to cry and/or take a nap and/or drown myself in a hot fudge sundae.  ...but my body is getting stronger, and if I'm going to do this, then the time is NOW.

--I made a little extra income, which will either help me pay off my taxes or will allow me to go visit family for my birthday.

--I spent some time with several friends that I haven't seen in a while.  I was grateful for those opportunities.  Sometimes I get so busy that I forget to make time to see the people that are so important to me. 

This week, if God doesn't change my plans again, I hope to:

--Run another seven miles. 

--Register for that half marathon!

--Finally take a look at that first novel again, with the intention of eventually (SOON!) sending out some more query letters.

--Get back to editing the second novel.

--Get back into reading other peoples' fiction.

--Continue blogging as I have been (both with Poor Reflections and Adventures in Social Awkwardness.  I've been on a pretty good blogging streak, and the reader numbers are some of the highest they've ever been.  THANK YOU FOR READING!  I think I need to come up with some kind of reward for March...

...let's say that if either Poor Reflections or Adventures in Social Awkwardness gets over 700 reads next month (March, in case you'd lost track), I will compose and post an original song expressing my gratitude to all my readers.

...there I go with that "my" thing again...

Food for Thought: How do you respond when your plans are interrupted?  Can you think of any specific examples of times when you had to ditch your own agenda to make room for God's agenda?  Do you ever find yourself over-committing?  (If you want, share your thoughts in a comment)

Friday, February 24, 2012

Fiction Friday: Pigs in Farce!

A video by Christian commedian (or is he a commedian who's a Christian, because there is probably a difference there) John Branyan has been floating around the interwebz, and I've decided that I wanted to post it, too.  Before I do that, I'd like to explain why I want to post it. 

The video I'm about to post is a Shakespearian retelling of "The Three Little Pigs."  It's absolutely hilarious--even though it's a bit long, it's worth watching. 

I like this video even more because it reminds me of an assignment I had in a British Literature class at my first college.  I was required to rewrite a fairy tale in the style of Beowulf.  The story I chose (drumroll): "The Three Little Pigs." 

I'm going to post my story before I post the video, because my story is over a decade old and isn't all that brilliant, and I'm the kind of person who likes to save the best for last.  If you want to skip down to the hilarious video without reading what I have dubbed "The Epic of Bay-No-Wulf," feel free!

The Epic of Bay-No-Wolf and the Three Pigs

A monster, fearful demon of the woods,
struck silently, teeth bearing cruel hunger lust.
Through forest glades he preyed, seeking his first feast.
The God-forsaken Big Bad Wolf crept ravenously, now
the straw structure was now in his sights.
The structure, simplest of three,
was tapered along the terrain of Pigland.
Then sucking in dry death wind, this foul
Pig-Eater heaved forth his vile breath.
When the Wolf had exhausted his angry air,
the straw house had collapsed. It was fallen.
Angered to discover his banquet had fled,
the Pursuer-of-Pork continued to the second structure of sticks.
Bolting for existence, the straw house’s occupant
wearily found his way to the side of Bay-No-Wolf.
Overwhelmed by the pig’s urgency, the hero began the
planning for the pursuit of his adversary.
The second stick house met a similar fate to its predecessor's
as the Big Bad Wolf exhaled his bitter destruction.
He then continued on to the final fortress, forged in brick
since no feast was found in the second of houses.
In reaching the brick building, the beast unleashed his air,
but firmly the house stood, shaming the force of the Wolf wind.
Holy fire in his eyes, the war-prince now emerged from the house.
In hungered surprise and delight, the Eater-of-Ham greedily struck at Bay-No-Wolf,
But the great lord leapt onto the roof, swiftly dodging the attack.
In hate blindness, the enemy lunged after him, too far.
A howl sounded as the Wolf missed his target,
falling down the chimney to a fiery demise.
Descending from the roof, the hero raised a mighty shout.
The news of his great feat was told from the chops of three pigs.

And now for something completely different pretty much the same, but much better:

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

I Am NOT Strong

You sense it.  I sense it.  We all sense it.  It's that pressure from society that tells us we have to be strong.  It's that pressure from society that tells us we have to have it all together, that tells us we have to look our best, be our best, outperform everyone else, and just generally be awesome in every possible way. 

And if society isn't telling us to be strong, then we're telling ourselves that we have to be strong.  We believe we have to be the best parent, the best spouse, the best friend, the best worker, the best whatever, and there is absolutely no room for error. 

And if for some reason we can't be this perfectly strong person, we buckle down and give into depression, despair, and guilt.  We trick ourselves into believing we live in a world made up of people who have it all together, and if we can't have it all together, too, then we're failures.  We either stop trying and succumb to mediocrity--or worse, or we put on a bold face, try harder, and proclaim to the world that we are STRONG.

Sometimes these proclamations don't come in words.  Sometimes we proclaim our strength by putting on our best clothes and make up, trying to look the part that we're playing.  Sometimes we proclaim it by doing things to attract attention.  Sometimes we proclaim it by trying to make others look weaker than us.  Sometimes we proclaim it by attacking anything that threatens our facades of strength, or anything that even suggests that we're not like all those imaginary people who have it all together.

It's not fun being weak.  It means we can't save ourselves.  It means that we have to rely on others--when it often so much more pleasant to be the person upon which others rely.  It means we have to face the ugliness in the mirror as being our own.  It means that we are broken, and it means that we can't do a blasted thing to fix our own brokenness.

When we reach that place of brokenness, it's often easier to pretend it isn't there.  It's often easier to proclaim, however it is we proclaim it, that WE ARE NOT WEAK; WE ARE STRONG.  It's comforting to hear ourselves proclaim this, but after a while, our own voice sounds pretty unconvincing.  There's no truth to it. 

We aren't strong.  We are weak. 

Paul was a pretty awesome guy.  He spoke eloquently; he was a good leader.  He knew what he believed and knew how to speak and write about it.  He was a Law-abiding Jew, one who had studied the Law and upheld it, one who had been through much persecution and prevailed.  Yet, Paul knew that he was weak, and he did not run away from it.

"...there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (emphasis mine)

I think sometimes we'd like to rewrite what Paul said there.  I think we'd like to say, "...I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me, and immediately He did.  He said to me, "Because you belong to Me, I'm going to give you strength so you can be strong and never have to deal with weakness again."  Therefore, I will boast that I am STRONG, because power rests on me.  That is why, for my own sake, I delight in being strong.  For I. AM. STRONG."

Sounds great...but that's not what Paul said. 

I've been spared from a lot of hardship that other people have had to face, but I've suffered some rejection in my life.  I've been rejected, and that rejection has become part of my identity.  When I look in the mirror, part of what I see is named "Rejected."  It would be comfortable to deny this part of myself, but I won't deny it, and I don't believe Christ denies it. 

"Rejected" isn't the only name I have, nor is it the most important name I have.  The most important name I have is "Beloved Child of God."  When I look in the mirror, that identity overwhelms everything else that I see.  It's just that when God claimed me as His child, He didn't remove the rejection.  He doesn't deny what I've been through or the pain it has caused me.  He hasn't fixed that broken part of me and made it all shiny and new so that everyone who sees me sees something perfect and strong.

See, one of the things that I find the most confusing about God is that He doesn't love us in spite of our weakness.  He just loves us.  He loves us as we are.  He doesn't give us His strength and just banish all the pain of our past, present, and future.  He gives us His strength daily to live for Him within the contexts of our weaknesses.  I can be "Rejected" and "Beloved" all at the same time, just as Paul could be "Weak" and "Strong" at the same time. 

"Rejected" isn't my only name, my only weakness.  I'm far too easily discouraged.  I'm overly sensitive.  I have no tact.  I don't speak well--especially not in situations where I'm uncomfortable.  I have a short fuse.  I get emotional too easily.  I freak out when I don't know what's expected of me or if I don't know how to behave.  I have no gumption.  I use the word awesome too much.  I make poor decisions and let people walk all over me.  I AM WEAK.

God is using me--not in spite of all these things.  He's working through them, using me as I am, using even my weaknesses for His glory.  I have no gumption, and I'm easily discouraged, but I still believe that I'm going to get my writing published someday.  When I do, I won't be able to praise myself for my talent or myself for the process of getting published.  I'm weak, but I serve a God who uses the weak and foolish to shame the strong and wise (1 Corinthians 1:27).  That's my only hope, yet that is a great hope.

I believe that God can and does receive glory through all of the things that He's allowed me to walk through, both the good and the bad.  If I were perfect, if I'd never been hurt, if I was able to do everything right and never mess up, if I just had a holy dose of strength that never allowed me to be exposed to weakness or pain again, then I would think that I have no need for Christ's daily provision.  And I don't think Christ would be glorified in a pious people continually walking in perfect strength.  Rather, I think Christ is more glorified through a group of needy individuals who reach and strive daily for Him and His grace.

I'm not strong.  I am weak.  And I can boast about that, not because there's anything amazing about me--but because my God is amazing.  He redeems my weaknesses and gives me strength in the midst of them. 

I'd like to share a video by a guy named Jason Gray.  Jason Gray is a pretty cool guy, from what I've seen and heard.  He's got so much better guitar skills than I'll ever have, and he's got an amazing voice.  At least, he's got an amazing voice when he sings.  Jason Gray has a speech impediment.  He stutters uncontrollably while he's speaking, but the impediment does not affect his singing at all.  In a world that shuns weakness and embraces strength, it might be easier for Jason Gray to keep the talking to a minimum and just sing.  But he does speak about his stuttering--he stutters about his stuttering.  He proclaims his weakness, boasts in His weakness, knowing that God can use his example to encourage others and to give Himself glory.  And God is using Jason Gray, not because he is strong, but because he's a weak person who can only be strong in Christ. 

...and he has a really awesome purple plaid shirt.  I also have an awesome purple plaid shirt.  I think everyone should have an awesome plaid purple shirt...

So what are your weaknesses?  What are some ways that God has worked through your weaknesses to reveal His perfect power?

Monday, February 20, 2012

Monday Blahg: Dreams and Dreamers

I've been called a dreamer for pretty much my entire life.  The ten year old I watch frequently shakes her head at me and says, "You're a dreamer, Ruth.  You're a dreamer."  It's a more than fair assessment of me.  When I was a little girl, I played make-believe like crazy.  When I was an older kid, I started writing stories (I wrote fan fic before fan fic was cool).  When I was a preteen, I was obsessed with Disney movies and Star Trek, wishing I could live like my favorite fictional characters. 

And when I was a teenager, I stared at the ceiling of my bedroom. 

That doesn't sound like a very exciting thing to stare at, but keep in mind that I am extremely nearsighted.  I got a bunch of those plastic glow-in-the-dark stars and stuck them all over the ceiling.  When I took my glasses off at night, the glowing stars looked all blurry.  In fact, to my myopic eyes, they looked like real stars.  That's the one good thing about being nearsighted--being able to "see" "real" stars over my head even when I'm indoors.  Only now my apartment has these 12 foot ceilings, and I never attempted to put stars on my current bedroom ceiling.  When I eventually move, I'll have to find a place with shorter ceilings....

Anyway, I had insomnia quite a bit as a teenager.  I spent many nights staring up at the "stars," praying that the Lord would just show me what He wanted me to do with my life.  I'd plead with God to reveal His great purpose for me.  I vowed I would do anything, but I just needed to know what it was.  This went on for years.

Part of the problem was that I had (and have) an older sister who was very determined, who knew more or less precisely what she wanted to do.  And she went out and did it.  I assumed that she had been struck by some "holy lightning bolt" from heaven that told her exactly what course her life was supposed to take.  So I was staring up at the "starry" ceiling, waiting for my "holy lightning bolt."  I prayed, pleaded, for God to send me that "holy lightning bolt" with all His plans for my life.

It never came.

And while my regrets are few (they exist, but they're few--because God was working through all of them even when I was messing up), I do wish that someone would have beat me upside the head when I was a teenager.  I wish someone would have come up to me, knocked me silly, and said what I'm about to say: 

"God usually doesn't send the "holy lightning bolt." 

I wasted years of my life wishing for something that wasn't going to come.  God wasn't going to just send me a live feed of all His plans for me.  God doesn't usually work that way.

That doesn't mean that God isn't revealing His will to us; in fact, He already has revealed His will.  I know I'm repeating myself, but I think it stands to be repeated.  God has revealed Himself and His will to us through Scripture.  We know the "little things" we're supposed to be doing.  If we're doing the "little things," like seeking Him, like loving our neighbor, like praying and studying the Bible...then He isn't going to leave us hanging in the "bigger things." 

For some people, perhaps even for most people, and definitely for me, God doesn't reveal His entire will or His entire calling.  He has given me gifts and interests, and the ability to use these gifts and interests to serve others.  He's called me to wait on Him for the "bigger things."  And slowly, He's been showing me what some of those "bigger things" are.  I'm not a big person, but I've got some big dreams.  I'm not a big person, but I serve a big God.  I believe my big God has given me some big dreams.

It's just that I've been a dreamer for so long, and I'm still realizing that dreams aren't any good just by themselves.  Disney was wrong; dreams don't come true just by wishing on a star (whether it's a real star or just a plastic glow-in-the-dark star).  Dreams only come true through a lot of hard work and personal investment.  My big dreams can't come true unless I'm willing to put some big effort into them.

And even then I'm still too small for my big dreams.

Peter Pan knew how to fly.  He needed a happy thought.  He needed faith and trust.  All those things were necessary for flight, but they alone couldn't make him fly.  He needed something outside of himself; he needed supernatural help. 

He needed pixie dust. 

And sometimes I try to just sprinkle some holy pixie dust on my dreams.  I pray over them.  I ask God to make them come true.  While it's great to ask for help, and I know I need it, I almost get into the "wishing on a star" trap all over again.  I don't like the phrase "God helps those who help themselves."  It's not in Scripture.  Benjamin Franklin wrote it.  So I'm not saying that we have to rely on ourselves to make our dreams come true.  What I am saying is that if something is worth dreaming, then it's worth working towards.  It's worth some hard work.

And lately I haven't been working that hard towards my dreams.

Part of it is discouragement.  Part of me doesn't believe these dreams can come true, so I don't want to put effort into a lost cause.

Part of it is laziness.  I don't feel like putting the effort into it because I still want to build my silly kingdoms instead of seeking God's Kingdom.

Part of it is busyness.  I really do have a lot of other things that occupy my time and energy, but if these dreams are of God, then they are worth making time and energy for.

Part of it is fear.  I don't know how to do what I'm doing, so I don't even try to figure it out.  I'm afraid that figuring it out will be hard.  And, as I mentioned, I'm lazy.  I don't like things to be hard.

But God didn't call me to do what's easy.  God didn't call me to be comfortable.  God called me to trust Him, to wait, and to work with all my might at whatever my hands find to do. 

So, here's how I'd like this week to look:

-- I want to get back on track with editing of second novel.

-- I want to take a look at my first novel and maybe start entertaining the idea of sending out some query letters to literary agents.

-- I want to run at least 10 miles for the week (weather permitting), including one 6 mile run (health permitting).

-- I want to continue with the weight loss success--I'm under130 pounds now, and my size six jeans are fitting better every day.  At least that's one goal that's going well....

-- I want to spend time with a friend whom I've been meaning to meet with.

-- I want to start reading other writers' fiction again.
-- I want to actually play my guitar for more than just a few minutes at a time.

-- I want to seek God not out of habit or out of some desire to meet a goal, but because I want to seek God.

And I really want to stop letting discouragement affect me so much.  That's probably where I could use the most prayer.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Fiction Friday Phoenix!

That’s right, I’m bringing sexy Fiction Friday back. In fact, it’s already been brought. For the past few weeks, I’ve subtly been setting aside each Friday to blog about literary type things. I’m sneaky like that. Since I don’t have any literary type thing in particular to blog about this Friday, I thought I’d go ahead and announce the rebirth of Fiction Friday.

In the past, before it died in a weak, sickly pile of ashes, the Fiction Friday blog was dedicated to unofficial book reviews, rants about my favorite fictional characters, descriptions of old favorite literary works, and so on and so forth. In its glorious rebirth, Fiction Friday will now encompass pretty much anything to do with writing, editing, and literature. And sometimes Dragons.

When I first started writing Poor Reflections, it was primarily a blog about my writing. As I have grown as a blogger, the blog has also grown to encompass different aspects of my thoughts and life. I no longer feel it appropriate to dedicate all my blogs to writing and literature, but since so much of my life is about writing and literature, I need to set aside one day a week for it. Thus, Fiction Friday has returned in a blaze of awesome. Yes, I just used “awesome” as a noun. On a side note, I’m hoping to do a lot more book reviews in the future. If anyone has read something good (and relatively clean) lately, let me know. (I’m also open to receiving free ARCs of books in exchange for honest reviews—just throwing that out there!)

This blog has made many changes since I started it about a year and a half ago, and I want to take a moment to clarify the basic format (you know, just to kill some blogging time). Right now, my blogging format usually involves three weekly posts on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

Monday is kind of a “this is how I’m doing” blog, in which I discuss my weekly achievements and/or failures, and my hopes and goals for the near future. It also might include some deeper things about how I’m feeling about my life as a whole. I call it “Monday Blahg” because 1) It’s Monday. Blah. 2) It’s often just a boring list about all the stuff I’m doing or trying to do. Again. Blah. 3) “Manic Monday” was already taken. Now that song is in your head. You’re welcome.

Wednesday is a kind of free-style blogging day. I leave Wednesday open to blog about whatever is on my mind (I almost want to call it “Whatever Wednesday,” but while I am obsessively in love with alliteration, I sense that my readers can only handle so much of it before running on a rambunctious raucous rampage). Often, this will include something about what God is teaching me through Scripture, or my thoughts on a given subject, or my thoughts on nothing in particular. It might be a funny blog. It might be a sad blog. It might be a sunny blog. It might be a mad blog. It might be a blog entirely made up of bad Dr. Suessian type poetry. It might be a blog about how much I love alliteration (although that might be more appropriate for a Fiction Friday blog—you can expect it to come out next week). There aren’t really any rules, here, because my mind needs a space to vent about once a week. And I figure other people might be interested in hearing my mind vent. If not, then, well, it at least makes me happy.

Fridays are now, once again, Fiction Friday! Reborn from the ashes, Fiction Friday lives again! I feel as though John Williams should compose a new melody appropriate for this great occasion, but I don’t know how to reach him.

…And I’m only about a gazbillion percent sure that I couldn’t afford him.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Unnecessary Valentine's Encouragement, & Other Stuff

So, I know everyone was waiting around with bated breath for my Wednesday post, and I know you were all heartbroken when it never appeared.  Riiiiight. 

Well, I did write a Wednesday post.  I scheduled it to post yesterday morning, and for whatever reason, it didn't post when I told it to.  It doesn't really matter, because basically all I said in that post was that I didn't feel like writing a post and was going to go to bed instead.  Because sometimes we all need to do that.

Anyway, I'm making up for the lame/nonexistent post by giving you a bonus Thursday post.  I know, you were all on the edges of your seats for that one, just praying I'd come through and not leave you hanging with just two posts for the week. 


So, it's a couple days after Valentine's Day.  The kids' sugar highs and crashes are all slowly tapering off.  I've still got about a dozen and a half pink mini cupcakes in my freezer.  I've still got a small stash of chocolate given to me by kids (or their parents) and friends and coworkers, and hopefully that will last me a while.  But all in all, I'm feeling almost like it's a couple of days after Christmas.  It's kind of a sad, wistful feeling.  I am sad because it's going to be a whole year before Valentine's Day season comes again. 

Soon, I'll be packing away my Valentine's decorations.  I'll be taking down the Valentine's cards that I taped to my bedroom door.  I'll be eating the chocolate.  The season has passed and won't come back again until next year.

I love Valentine's Day.

I love pretty much any day that allows me to celebrate and share gifts with people that are important to me. 

There are some people who don't like Valentine's Day, either because it's too commercialized, or because they don't like the idea of having just one day set aside to share with the love of their lives, or because their spouse is deceased or is separated from them because of work, military, etc.  There are people who have been divorced or who have ended meaningful relationships since last Valentine's Day.  There are people who simply can't face another year of being alone and single on Valentine's Day.

I'm not making light of these peoples' pain.  I am not saying that they're doing anything wrong by hurting.  I don't know what's going on in their hearts, what's gone on in their lives.  It's okay to be sad on Valentine's Day.

But I've just got to say that it makes me flat out mad when someone expects me to be sad on Valentine's Day.  A few well-meaning people have tried to offer me some consolation for being single on Valentine's Day.  These consolations came without provocation; I wasn't asking for it.  The problem is that these people with good intentions just automatically assume that all single people are miserable, and that really bothers me.

First of all, I'm not miserable.  I LOVE Valentine's Day.  It irks me when people call it "Single Awareness Day," because that's not the way I look at Valentine's Day at all.  I'm not sitting around wallowing in self-pity because I don't have a boyfriend or husband.  I don't see Valentine's Day as a day to receive material gifts from one particular person who loves me.  I don't see Valentine's Day as a day just to celebrate the love between myself and one significant other.  There are PLENTY of others in my life whom I view as significant.  I like to see Valentine's Day as a day to express my love for all the significant others in my life.  To me, Valentine's Day is a joyful day, and it's really annoying (and even confusing) when someone comes along trying to offer me consolation in the midst of a day that I love and greatly enjoy. 

Second...dude.  Stop perpetuating the "all single people are bitter hags" stereotype.  I'm not bitter because I'm single, but I AM angry at people who won't accept any other attitude from single people.  It's wonderful that you love your spouse so much that you can't imagine not living life without him or her.  I'm really happy for you.  For me, and a lot of other single individuals, we can imagine living life without a spouse.  We can imagine it because we live it day in and day out, and guess what...there is life without marriage, and it's not just surviving.  My life is full and blessed.  Does that mean I don't ever want to get married?  No.  I wouldn't mind having a husband and adopting some kids (or so I think).  But I'm more than okay if I don't get married.  I've got a lot more than I deserve.  I love my life, and it's frustrating when people tell me that I can't love my life simply because I'm not married.

Look, it's not that I don't appreciate the gesture from these well-meaning people.  I do realize they were trying to be supportive, and their effort counts, even if it was misguided.  The thing is, these attitudes are born in ignorance.  People often feel as though they have to say something, so they say the wrong thing.  And I realize that I'm also very ignorant of things that are going on in other peoples' lives.  This is one of the biggest reasons why I'm hoping to get the new website up and running soon (praying God will let it happen at the right time and in the right ways, because my tendency is to get discouraged that it's not happening as soon as I want it to).  My hopes are that a lot of stereotypes and wrong attitudes will be corrected, and that people who do have legitimate pain and needs will have a place to gain some support from others who can relate, or who, at the very least, care.

And caring, even in ignorance, is still a pretty good thing.  So I guess I'm blessed to have friends who care enough to try to encourage me--even if their encouragement is totally unwarranted.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Monday Blahg: Cha-cha-cha-changes!

I recently asked myself about the things I'd like to change about my life.

I'd like to make more money, work less hours, and have health insurance.

I'd like more time to devote to writing.  In fact, I'd also like to already be a published author, and I'd like to have at least a modest following...or a not so modest following....

I'd like to get married and adopt some kids.

The problem with all of these things I'd like to change is, well, I can't have them without change.

I have ups and downs, but right now, I'm genuinely happy with the life I have.  I go to an amazing church with amazing people who serve one another out of godly love for one another.  I have so many friends that love me so well.  I have four jobs that, yes, add stress and pay little, but are also tremendous blessings.  My coworkers are remarkable, encouraging people.  I love this little town I live in.  I love this life I have.

And I'm very afraid of change--especially when I love my life as much as I do.

I know I've got to eventually find some other means of employment than what I'm currently doing.  The four job thing divides my loyalty and eats away my time and gives me extra stress.  I'm barely making ends meet and I have no insurance benefits.  I always owe $$$ on my taxes because my having multiple jobs confuses the whole system.  But I don't want to quit any of the jobs I currently have.  My coworkers and bosses are extraordinary, caring people who appreciate me and the work that I do.  I know they value me, and it makes me feel guilty to even consider leaving them.  I know sometimes it's important to think about myself and my needs, but I just love the kids and families I work with, I just love my coworkers and bosses.  I don't want things to change, even though I know they're eventually going to change.

If I become a published author, it is quite possible (and probable) that my life won't change all that much.  Most authors don't make enough to live on without having a "real job" or a "real spouse with a real job."  But I know that part of me would really like to be a somewhat popular author--at least in certain circles.  I don't know if that will ever happen, but I'd like it to.  And if it does, then that might mean I won't have time for all of the jobs I currently work.  It will mean that I will have to free my schedule for other things--such as book signing tours?  Yes, please.  Except--I'm not sure how I'd adapt to such changes.  I'm not sure how I would handle the life of an author, even if I'm not at all famous or popular. 

And being single is something I've gotten pretty used to.  If this blog that I want to start up ever happens, I will be writing it from the perspective of a single woman in the church (and fyi, that doesn't make it a "single's blog").  I know God is using me as a single woman right now to speak to some specific problems I've noticed in attitudes (both of single people and married people) within the church.  God's given me a different perspective on things that has come about partly because I am a single woman in her thirties.  And apart from all of that, I've just had a really long time to get used to being single.  I don't know what being in a relationship would look like right now.  I don't know what being married would look like right now.  I don't know what going through the process of adoption would look like right now.  I don't know what being a parent would look like right now.  I know that if God wanted me to be in a relationship, a marriage, a family, then He would provide for that--but I can't pretend that I'm not a little afraid to make the necessary changes to my lifestyle, my way of thinking, etc. 

I love my life.  I love my life as it is.

What scares me is that I know there are going to be some big changes in my life in the next few months whether I like it or not.  I don't have any choice in that matter.  As for other matters, almost every other matter in my life, I do have choices.  I have so many open-ended choices of what I could be doing, where I could be living, where I could be working, and which friends/family I could be closer to (location-wise).  I don't like choices.  I'm more comfortable when someone is telling me what I should do.  Sometimes I really wish that God would just give me a nice ten year life plan to look at.

God does give direction, but He mostly just likes to watch me sweat and wait till the last minute to give me that direction.  It's not because He gets some kind of perverse delight out of that; it's because He loves me.  It's because He wants me to trust Him.  It's because He knows I'm the kind of person who likes to see the whole path before I take the first step.  He doesn't lead me like that.  He turns out the lights, takes my hand, and leads me through the darkness, one step at a time. 

In other words, I won't know what I'm supposed to do until it's time to do it.  And He'll provide for me when that time comes.

So I know change is coming.  And I believe it will be good change.  I don't necessarily like the fact that change is coming, but I'm at peace.  I'm at peace because I know the Lord is making my paths straight, even if I can't see those paths.

I don't need to see the whole path.  I just need to focus on the things I know to do, and be obedient.

Right now, I need to work on my writing and editing a lot more. 

Right now, I need to make sure I'm going to sleep early enough to get up in the morning and have good, meaningful time with God.

Right now, I need to stop whining about how it's too cold to go running and just go get on the elliptical instead.

Right now, I need to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with my God.

Right now, I need to love and serve others more than I focus on how others love and serve me.

Right now, I need to wait and trust.

This world is uncertain.  Things are always changing, whether I like it or not.  I'm always changing. 

The reason why I can trust God through all of it is because He is the One Thing that never changes.

Question: What are some things you'd like to change about your life?  Are you willing to have other things change in your life in order to have those changes take place?

Friday, February 10, 2012

Film Adaptation Praise: Water for Elephants

I’m one of those annoying people who has to read the book before I see the movie (in most cases). People tell me that I’m just setting myself up for disappointment, but the thing is, I’d rather be disappointed in the movie than in the book. I’d rather read the original story, as the original author intended it, before seeing a film adaptation. I’d rather go see the film and say, “Wow, that wasn’t anything like the book,” than to read a book of a film I’d already seen and say, “Wow, that wasn’t anything like the movie.”

In an ideal world, any films based on novels would be good adaptations. So what makes a good adaptation? It’s NOT a film that follows the book exactly. Most novels would not translate well into a movie without some changes. Some books are weak on action scenes, or the dialogue doesn’t sound as good as it reads. Some books translate better to film if their story sequence is slightly altered, or if characters or situations are combined. I don’t believe that every film adaptation has to be exactly like the book on which it is based, but I do have some high expectations. A good film adaptation is a film that captures the main themes of the book and adequately tells the original story the author intended.

I’ve seen some really bad film adaptations, but I’ve also seen some remarkably good ones. For the most part, the Harry Potter movie series were great adaptations. They had their problems (especially “HP and the Prisoner of Azkaban,” which was impossible to understand if you hadn’t already read the book—fail!), but for the most part, they were excellent. I’m looking forward to the Hunger Games movie coming out in March. The previews look good!

Anyway, there are a few movies that I actually like better than the books. In almost every case, it was a movie that I saw before I read the book (which is a shame, because who knows what might have happened if I had read the book first?).

I can name these books on one hand:

-The Three Musketeers. Sorry Dumas, but “All for Love” was my favorite song for like a year, and Chris O’Donnell was hot—plus what was that deal about drowning Rebecca DeMornay’s a creepy lady’s head in a swamp. I am still having nightmares….

-The Hunchback of Notre Dame. I love you, Victor. May I call you Victor? Vic? Vicky? Okay, then. Mr. Hugo, I love you. I love Les Miserables. I even loved your version of Hunchback. I really do like tragic stories. Okay, so I don’t. But I like them when the French write them. Anyway, your story was all right, but I kinda sorta liked Disney’s happy ending version a LOT better than the “everyone dies but the jerky guy” version. Also, the music in the Disney version is simply amazing. It’s nothing personal. I hope you understand, Vicky. Dude. That’s totally my mom’s name. I can’t take you seriously at all if I call you Vicky. How about just plain Hugo? Hugh?

-The Wizard of Oz. Okay, I get that Frank Baum was trying to write a political commentary and that MGM screwed up his story. I just really couldn’t get into the written version. And I really just wanted to see midgets dancing around with giant plastic lollipops.

-The Phantom of the Opera.  The book was good, but Andrew Lloyd Weber makes everything more awesome.  Sorry French type author dude.  I can't remember your last name, but I remember your first name was Gaston.  I can only imagine you were quite the guy, using antlers in all of your decorating, having biceps to spare, eating five dozen eggs every day, being especially good at expectorating, and so on and so forth....

Up until recently, those were pretty much the only films I liked better than the books, but I just added another one to the list.

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen was well-written. I liked the characterization. There wasn’t anything really wrong with the story—except for the fact that I just could not get over the sexually graphic scenes. I’m a very visual person; when I read something, it sticks with me forever. And though I liked the story itself, if I could find some mindbleach and rid my brain of the book, I would in a heart beat. I wish I had never read the book, because I’ll never forget the scenes that I don’t want to remember. Someone gave me that book as a present. I’m not ashamed to say that after one reading, I gave that sucker to a used book store.

Some people aren’t affected by books like I am, and many people wouldn’t have a problem with graphic imagery, anyway. I do have a problem with it, and that’s why I’ve never read The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, although I’ve heard it’s excellent. I just don’t want to open my mind to images that will never go away. Incidentally, The Kite Runner is another book I wish I hadn’t read. The story itself was excellent, but I’m stuck with mental images I don’t want. And they will never go away.

Water for Elephants was made into a film a while ago, but I was hesitant to watch it. First, I wasn’t sure that Robert Pattinson would be a very convincing lead. After watching the first three "Twilight" films (I won’t see the last until both parts are out and I can rent them for cheap), I kind of figured he was a bad actor, despite his charming portrayal of Cedric Diggory in "HP and the Goblet of Fire". The second reason I didn’t want to see Water for Elephants was because I was afraid it was going to be too graphic. I read some reviews, which calmed my fears, but I still was hesitant.

The main reason I finally rented and watched Water for Elephants was because I know a guy who played one of the circus side show performers (he’s over seven feet tall in real life, and at least twice as awesome as he is tall). I’m glad I finally did, because I really enjoyed the film. Turns out, Rob Pat does a pretty good job when he’s not playing an emo vampire in a poorly directed fangirl flick Edward Cullen. I was able to connect with his character and watch the story unfold without being forced to watch a ton of inappropriate sexual images.

Don’t get me wrong. I get it that this story took place in a circus in the early 1930s, and there probably was a lot of inappropriate sexual stuff going on behind the scenes. My issue was the way the author penned it out, making us witness everything the main character was witnessing (and I have a feeling that both the main character and the author have a dirty mind). it is possible to tell a story, and be true to that story, without being disgusting.  The film proves that.  The film was great in that it told the story, keeping in a lot of the truth about sexual issues and such, but not in a way that completely grossed me out.  In my opinion, if there’s so much graphic, shocking imagery in a book that it actually overwhelms the story the author is trying to tell, then that’s not good story telling.  I’d rather have a writer tell me a good story instead of trying to shock me.

But maybe that’s just me.

Again, I don't think Gruen is a bad writer.  I don't think Water for Elephants is a bad book.  I just can't handle grotesque imagery, and I think the book would have been better without those scenes (or if the scenes had been toned down dramatically).

Anyway, I highly recommend the movie Water for Elephants. It’s PG13 and contains a lot of violence and some sexual issues, but nothing that I would consider overwhelming for older teenagers and adults.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

When Moses Takes Too Long

Moses had been gone a long time.

It had been over a month since the leader of the newly freed Israelites had gone up the mountain, disappearing behind the cloud that appeared as a consuming fire. The Israelites had said, in unison, that they would do everything that the Lord said to do.  And why not?  Hadn't God promised to go before them?  But now, God wasn't leading them anywhere.  Moses was up in that fiery cloud, and they were waiting.  Right now, the command was to wait.  The command was to wait for Moses to come back down.

But when the Israelites saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, “Come and make us a god to go before us. As for this Moses fellow, who brought us up out of Egypt, we do not know what has happened to him.”

Moses had been gone a long time. Something might have happened to him. He might have even died. They might be waiting in vain for him to return and tell them what to do.

Forty days.  Forty nights.  That was too long for the Israelites to wait.  They decided it was time for them to take matters into their own hands.  If Moses wasn’t coming back with instructions from the God who was supposed to go before them, they would have Aaron make them another god to lead them.

So Aaron took their jewelry, melted it, and made it into the image of a golden calf.  The Israelites forgot their promise to follow the Lord’s commands.  They bowed down to an image that was not God.  They worshipped something made out of their discarded jewelry, something made from human hands, something that didn’t ask them to wait.

Their god was something they could understand.  Their god was something they could control.  Their god was an easy god to follow.

The Israelites didn’t know all of the things the Lord had to tell Moses, about the precise details involved in the building of His temple, about the instructions in making all the various items that went inside His temple, about the rituals involved when a sinful people approach a holy God.  Had they known, they might have been more willing to wait.  God had much to say to Moses, and that took time.  Forty days and nights, that was a more than reasonable amount of time.  But their understanding of the situation wasn’t important; God wanted their trust.

And waiting always involves trust.

And trust is hard, just as waiting is hard.  Even after God had parted the seas and led His people out of captivity, even after He had fed them manna and quail in the wilderness, the Israelites found it hard to trust.  They found it hard to wait.  And they succumbed to their fears--the fears of not being in control, the fears of not knowing and understanding, the fears that following God just wasn't supposed to be easy.

 And the Israelites sinned.

And when Moses did come down from that mountain, he burned the golden calf. He crushed the ashes into powder. He sprinkled the powder on the water. He made the Israelites drink it. They had to drink their sin.

Now, I’ve never made an idol out of gold.  I’ve never taken off my jewelry, melted it down, and made a cow out of it.  I’ve never worshipped a piece of wood or a statue.  I’ve never been foolish enough to believe that a figurine could be worthy of my worship.

But there have been many times when I’ve grown tired of waiting for the Lord to move in my life.  There have been times when I’ve grown tired of trusting when He has said to trust, waiting when He’s said to wait.  There have been times when I’ve decided to take matters into my own hands and try to do things myself.  There have been times when I’ve tried to make myself into a god, tricking myself into believing that I have control.

There have been times when I’ve made gods out of my friends, unreasonably expecting them to understand me or be able to help me in ways that only God can.  And I frustrate those friendships.

There have been times when I’ve tried to use my own efforts to force a situation to work in the way I want it to, instead of waiting for God to move in His way and time.  And I frustrate the situation.

There have been times when I’ve tried to manipulate God by throwing a tantrum, instead of trusting, obeying, waiting…and ultimately resting in Him.  And I’m just grateful I can’t really frustrate God, just myself.

But, oh, there have been times when I’ve had to drink up those ashes of my sin.

Waiting isn’t easy.  Trust isn't easy.

Following a God whose ways are not our ways--that's also not easy.

But Moses is going to come down from that mountain.

God is going to come through.

We don’t need to fashion gods for ourselves.  We don’t need to try to gain control.

Because the Lord is the God who goes before us.

Sometimes we just have to wait a little while for Him to move…

…and sometimes we have to trust.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Monday Blahg: Blah, Indeed

This past week has been discouraging in many ways, and I don't handle discouragement very well.

-The writing/editing has practically been non-existent.

-I'm fairly sure that I'm not going to meet a deadline I made for myself regarding the website/blog I want to start soon.  And by the way, it has been brought to my attention that I need to clarify something about this website/blog.  It is NOT going to be a single's website. I've had several people refer to it as a single's website, and I'm not sure where that miscommunication occured.  I thought I had been pretty clear that if single people are the only people who visit, read, comment on, and can relate to the blog I'm hoping to start (dare I hope, next week?--if all the stars align), then I might as well just forget the whole thing.  I'm a single person, yes, and I'm writing from that perspective, but with the hopes that people with other perspectives will give them to me, to the other readers.  I want it to be a community, a place where many different people from different marital, etc. backgrounds can find common ground and unity.  I want it to be a place where we can encourage one another and find ways to minister to one another better, all with the single purpose of glorifying God.  I know it's going to be a rough start, getting others involved, and sometimes I get discouraged about that.  Sometimes I want to just drop the whole idea, but I know this vision is something God gave me.  I can't allow discouragement to keep me from trusting and obeying, and eventually seeing God's work come to life.

-I do owe on my taxes.  It's not nearly as much as last year, and it's managable, but it's still a discouraging amount.  It's even more discouraging because I was hoping to get a little something back this year.  And while I LOVE my jobs, I'm starting to realize that it's not financially responsible for me to keep doing things the way I've been doing them.  That saying, "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results"?  Yeah.  I can relate.  I'm going to start looking into getting something full time, which I don't want to do, but I can't keep working myself half to death and barely making it from paycheck to paycheck.  Plus, it's killing me to have work take out extra money on every paycheck, and I STILL end up having to pay out of pocket when tax time comes.  I'm not doing my taxes incorrectly; it's just that being single and having four jobs doesn't make for a happy tax season.  So hooray.  I love my work, but unfortunately that's not good enough anymore.  I just hope I don't end up working in a prison box padded cell cubicle.

-The running is going a little better.  I got back up to 4 miles, which is a far cry from the 13.1 I want to accomplish this year, but it's better than last week.  I could barely manage 2 miles last week, for whatever reason.  I need to kick it up a notch, soon.  I need to actually start training--not that I have a race date in mind yet, but I might as well be prepared for anything.

-The diet is going well, too.  Can't complain there.  I even get marshmallows  and chocolate from time to time. 

-God has been faithful this week to remind me of my weaknesses.  I've had a rough week.  I've been broken in several different ways.  And I figure that's kind of where He wanted me, where He wants me.  Sometimes we have to be broken before we can be healed.  It's not a happy place to be, but I know there's always mercy in the struggle.

Happy Monday!  I'm hoping this week is better than the last!

Friday, February 3, 2012

On Rivers and Sleeping Daffodils

 "Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there someday." -A. A. Milne

This has been the mildest, most wonderful springs winters I've seen in a long time.  Sometimes I forget that it's still winter. 

Some of the trees are already budding, some of the flowers are already blooming, falling for nature's little trick.  But I've noticed that there are no daffodils yet.  The daffodils are still asleep.  I expect they'll pop up sooner or later, but for now, their absence serves as a reminder that it's still time to wait.

I know what they're waiting for.  They're waiting for spring.  They're waiting for the cold and death of winter (even if it's a mild winter) to finally be over, for the warmth and life of spring to wake them up.  They're waiting for the right time.

What am I waiting for?

I don't know, but I kinda figure that all those flowers that came out too early are going to fade out quickly, or maybe even be killed off by an unexpected wintry day.

The daffodils?  They don't rush. 

Neither will I.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012


"The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.
Who can understand it?" Jeremiah 17:9

I've been a Christian for around two and a half decades, give or take a few years.  I'm not one of those people who can pinpoint an exact moment when I accepted Christ.  I was young; it felt like He had been pursuing me my entire life.  There wasn't any big moment of salvation that I can remember; I just remember Him.  For me, knowing Christ was a gradual thing.

And I don't think that has changed.  Christ is still pursuing me, and I'm still trying to get to know Him.  I figure I will be getting to know Him until the imperfect glass is shattered and I can see Him face to face.  And recently, I was reminded of how poor of a reflection I really do see....

Even after all this time of being a Christian, I still sometimes get caught in the snare of believing that I have to be perfect before I can be accepted.  Some people claim they don't want to become Christians because all of Jesus' supposed followers are hypocrites.  And I am definitely guilty of hypocrisy.  I'm a sinner.  I sin.  I sin rebelliously.  I sin knowingly.  But I don't see any point in hiding my imperfections from people who think Christians are supposed to be perfect.  If Christians were perfect, then there would be no need for Christ.   That's kind of the point of Christianity.  But I forget that sometimes....

Like Eve, who wanted to be like God--who basically wanted to be her own god, I want things my own way, too.  And with one sin, one act of rebellion, I feel that separation between myself and the God who I've been gradually getting to know my entire life.  It's worse when I find myself repeating the same sin again.  And again. 

And when enough time passes and I can trick myself into believing that I'm not caught up in that pattern of sin anymore, I start feeling pretty good about myself.  Then, when I inevitably mess up again, I feel worthless.  I pray for forgiveness, but I don't believe God will listen to me in my sinful state.  And I try to make it all right again, wait till more time passes, wait until I feel like a good enough Christian to come fully to God with a clean heart.

But my heart isn't clean.  My heart is deceptive.  It is desperately sick, as the NASB puts it.  I like the NIV (1984)  version a little better: It's beyond all cure.  That helps me understand the hopelessness of my situation.

The reality of my situation is that I can never be good enough for the mighty, holy God who appeared in a cloud of fire to Moses and the Israelites, causing the very mountains to tremble.  The reality of my situation is that I can never be good enough for the God who appeared in human flesh and took the form of a servant, obeying unto death.  And my feeble brain can't wrap itself around the fact that this God, the cloud of fire that demanded reverence, came down to earth in the form of a humble human in order to die to atone for my sin, for my rebellion. 

I can believe that God is powerful.  I can believe that God defeated death and hell.  I can believe that God conquered sin.

So why am I foolish enough to think that my sinfulness is stronger than God? 

The verses before Jeremiah 17:9 show a contrast.  Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends in his own strength (Jeremiah 17:5).  That's where I live a lot of the time.  I want a clean heart.  I want an honest heart.  But there's no hope for me when I trust in my own strength.  My heart is deceptive, beyond all cure.

But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him (Jeremiah 17:7). 

There's the hope.  There's the only hope. 

And when I trust in myself, I miss it.

My heart is indeed deceptive.  My heart is desperately, desperately sick. 

But the Lord searches it.

There's our hope.

"O LORD, the hope of Israel,

all who forsake you will be put to shame.
Those who turn away from you will be written in the dust
because they have forsaken the LORD,
the spring of living water.
Heal me, O LORD, and I will be healed;
save me and I will be saved,
for you are the one I praise." -Jeremiah 17:13-14
It occurred to me recently, this supposedly mature Christian, that God doesn't just want the pretty and nice and orderly stuff in our lives.  And that's good, because there's not really that much in me that's pretty and nice and orderly.  God doesn't want just the stuff I feel good about, the successes and the victories and the happy times.  God wants me.  He wants all of me. 

Like Eve, I have chosen to rebel.  I've tried to make myself into my own personal god and savior.  I've sought first my own kingdom and my own righteousness.  But all I've done is earned the wages of death, of hopelessness, of a deceitful, desperately sick heart.  I wanted everything; I got nothing.  And that's exactly what I deserve.

The thing is, Christ died to redeem us to Himself, to restore our relationship with Him.  His death and conquering of death makes it possible for me to be His again.  He is the Living Water, offered to all who are thirsty.  In a manner of speaking, it's not sin that causes people to die and go to hell; it's the rejection of the One who can save them from sin and death.

I'm not saying that sin is to be taken lightly.  Christ died to set us free from sin, and sometimes I forget that I'm a new creation.  I do desire brokenness for my sin, and I ask for that, because I know I'm not even strong enough to muster up that brokenness in myself. 

But my sin, my failure, my victory, my success, none of it ultimately matters.  What ultimately matters is the work that Jesus did on the cross for me, for you, for His own Name's sake.  And because I've put my trust in Him, I, the rebel, I the sinner, I get something I can't deserve.  I get it all.  I become a joint heir to the Kingdom I should have been seeking first all along.

It's hard for me to see God as a fiery cloud, as a living and active Spirit, a sharp double-edged sword, that cuts down deep to judge my deceptive heart.  It's hard for me to see this same God as a sympathetic High Priest who was tempted in every way, yet without sin.  It's hard for me to believe that I can boldly approach the throne of grace without trying to justify myself. 

But God isn't just one or the other.  God is both the holy, powerful cloud and the suffering servant who can sympathize with my weakness.  God is.  And just as God wants all of me, He also gives me all of Himself.  The same Power that raised Jesus from the dead has given Himself to me.  I'm not holy, could never be holy, in my own strength.  I'm holy because He's given me His holiness.

And my deceitful heart, which is beyond all cure?  When He, for which nothing is impossible, heals me, I am healed. When He saves me, I am saved.  Because blessed is the One who trusts in the Lord. 

And He is the One I praise.

Who can understand my heart?
The Lord.
The Lord searches it.
He knows me.

And one day, the dark glass will shatter.

I'll see Him, too.  All of Him.  Face to face.

And I'll know Him fully, just as I am fully known.