Wednesday, April 15

Psalm 46

I have the most incredible set of friends. Not only are they supremely interesting people, but they are totally unique, and they seem to give me the freedom to be myself without the pressure to always understand what that means; but maybe my favorite of all...they are deeply spiritual and incredibly strong women.

The Girlfriends challenged each other to do a devotional on Psalm 46 - just reading & meditating on it with God & then share our thoughts with each other via email. While we may stink at being on time, it was worth the wait. Our culture would be a very different place if every person had even just one friend who had the guts to share with them the intimate thoughts that pass between themselves & God. Christian or not, it is impossible to rub elbows with people who are in touch with God and not be compelled to be a better version of yourself.

I can't claim any special connection with God that goes beyond what anyone else is offered & therefore I don't presume to speak on His behalf or contain wise words of wisdom that you should hear. However, in reading Psalm 46 from The Message, I was struck by the following...

God lives here, the streets are safe. River fountains splash joy, cooling God's city: this sacred haunt of the Most High.

While I am no theologian, and while I may be taking these verses out of their intended context, I am still struck at the prospect of me being that fountain - the way in which He splashes joy on the Earth - refreshing & comforting those in His proximity. If the Earth is God's creation, and the city of God is the church, let me be the fountain that gives life & breath to the weary and let my affects spur others on to do the same - making the church spill out onto the community, blessing everyone it touches.

I heard a story once of a woman (and I honestly don't care if it's true or not) who wanted to be buried with a fork in her hand. The story says her reason was that she always got excited when someone cleared her plate for her & told her to keep her fork - that held the promise of dessert! She saw heaven as dessert & wanted to be buried with her fork as a reminder to those at her funeral that there was much more to be excited about than there was to mourn. Whenever I think of my own funeral, I think of this story because it reflects my heart so perfectly. As of today, there will be a second thing that will come to mind whenever I consider my own funeral...I pray that at the culmination of everything, the theme of people's words of remembrance about me will be that I 'splashed joy' on them.

Wednesday, April 8

It Only Takes a Spark

There is really nothing cooler in this world than knowing you're making a difference. Heck, it might be an indirect difference about 12-times-removed, but when you know - I mean really KNOW - that what you're doing is having an impact, nothing equals it.

I've just walked in the door from my 2nd 12 hour day in a row. Last week I had a 12 hour day & a 15 hour day. I've pulled several all nighters in the past couple of months. My work/life balance is completely out of control (it's also under review & plans are being made to fix it), but I'm sitting down for a reheated dinner at nearly 10 pm with a sense of 'fullness' because I'm one person in a world of billions and what I do matters.

I'm no Billy Graham & certainly no Mother Teresa, but I am Angela Stewart and while maybe I sat in a discussion tonight & 'changed' the world instead of preached to a crowd of thousands to change the world, I'm one piece in a puzzle that's making a ripple. After all, isn't that what Mother Teresa did? Mopped one brow, fed one orphan, comforted one mortal...but you put it together & something is created exponentially larger than the sum of it's parts. Something that lasts well beyond any single lifespan. Not just a legacy or a memory cherished by those it directly impacts...but a living organism that carries on & builds momentum long after its original spark is 'gone'.

I. Am. That. Spark.

I rest my head on the pillow tonight with a happy exhaustion that can only come from being fulfilled in what I do. And isn't that sort of true for everyone - we feel best about ourselves when we know what we're doing MATTERS?

Friday, March 20

The Best Boyfriend I Have

So to tease Jason a little last night, I left a note on his car under his windshield that simply read 'Your the BEST boyfriend I have.' I know, not very kind, but very funny to me. He seemed to get the joke as his text later read 'Thanks for not telling me about the other boyfriends at least for the first 4 months.' And that's that. Jason just rolls.

So I've been dating my friend of 17 years for 4 months now and here are some observations I have to say in regards to dating your friend:

1. It's amazing the freedom you have when you realize your brand new boyfriend has already seen you in all your non-girlfriend glory: bathing suits, no make up, just waking up at a high school sleep over, crying over something ridiculous, big hair from high school, the list could go on.

2. Being understood is vastly more important than the mystery of a 'new' relationship. Sure, some of the luster is rubbed off when the above paragraph is applied to a new relationship, but the depth of care that comes from intimacy and understanding burns like a wildfire compared to the new relationship's birthday candle.

3. The advice columns that recommend being friends first don't mention the speed with which that applies to the dating relationship. I don't personally know of anyone else that could pick out my new car for me during the first month of dating - but Jason did...I showed up to sign the papers & drove it for the first time on my way home from the dealership.

Besides the obvious bonuses of dating someone you've been friends with for so long, I've got bonuses coming out my ears from dating JASON. My first impression of Jason when I met him at 13 years of age: old man trapped in a pre-pubescent body. He loved rules - not just that he followed him, but he LIKED them! He was so serious - cautious, thought-out, measured, serious. And the poor guy couldn't hold a candle to the flashy arrogance of his teenage peers. But here he is 17 years later & as his age has caught up to his maturity, it's balanced out really well. All the while his flashy counter parts seem to struggle to find an identity in their 30's. Not a dang thing wrong with that natural transition, but Jason's just as steady as ever in who he is - the same today as yesterday as tomorrow. I used to think that was boring. I used to think that meant he was predictable. And while I love his stability, I've come to learn that steadiness is not the same as stuck. Sure, you can't deny that the addition of me hasn't shaken him up a bit, but the fact that we are together has very little to do with Jason changing and a whole lot to do with me seeing him differently.

These are a few of my favorite things...
Raindrop on roses
Ooops, wrong list.

Dependability: he does what he says he'll do in the timeframe he said he'd do it

Thoughtfulness: he's always thinking ahead & generally about my needs/preferences/desires

Softness: Jason just isn't harsh. He's kind, gentle, tender, loving.

Hard worker: it's genetic, but when he's on a task, he's 180% 'in'

Organized: in this, we are the same - the question is, 'why NOT have things organized?' We are both very excited about combining our systems of organization - we have two well-functioning homes and can't wait to take the best of both of our systems and put them together.

Routined: he naturally leans toward my natural bent which is exemplified in how we handle our respective toothpastes - we store them in a particular location, in a particular direction, with a particular motion of squeezing that suits our system of tooth brushing. I know, it would drive anyone else crazy, but we don't even think about it - it's just how we brush our teeth! We'll see what happens when we share the same tub of toothpaste...

Flexible: I know, how can this go with the 'routined' part of Jason? But it does - he just bends and flexes with whatever comes his way be it a change in plans, a preference of mine, etc...

Athletic: softball season starts in a few weeks and I can't wait. I've always been a sucker for physical prowess.

Independent: I easily feel tied down & Jason's sense of self is so freeing to me. He's his own man, with his own interests, his own ministries, his own friendships, his own time commitments, his own plans, etc...he is choosing to unite them with my own independence and that's respectable, but he doesn't seem to see marriage as a complete redefinition of himself...he is still Jason, we've just chosen to make one strong team out of two whole people.

Baseball: he may have chosen incorrectly when picking his favorite sport, but I love that Jason loves baseball for all the same reason I love football - the two sports are simply reflections of our two personalities. So while I may not prefer his sport as much as my own, I love that he loves baseball. I also love how he manages to love and follow baseball but in such a way as an adult would do it and not a bachelor.

So tonight as you curl up with your teammate of choice, take a minute to tell them something from your Favorite Things list - I know yours is just as long as mine.

Darn Those Women!

Remember when you were a little kid looking adoringly up into the faces of the college students & wondering when you were going to grow up & be so cool? Well, I'm 31 and in general I like who I've become. But every once in awhile I find myself awash with a longing to be a 'real' grown up. It's you Bloggers that kill me. I used to feel this about scrapbookers - where do they find the time, money, energy, creativity?!?!? - but then I tried scrapbooking and realized I hated it, so the feelings of inadequecy went away based on my new discovery that I don't scrapbook because I hate instead of not scrapbooking because I suck. Yeah, even I think that sounds like the little kid who finds an irrational love of hanging out with the girls at recess because he always gets out first when the boys play dodgeball.

So I've 'matured' beyond scrapbooking. But here I sit with a blog. I LOVE reading my friends' blogs - I love that I can keep up with them, I miss hearing their 'voices' and the blog is like spending time with them, I marvel at their wit - and the stinkin thing is, that I journal all the time & this blogging thing should be a breeze for me! Heck, I love being on the computer & last I checked (a good 10 years ago now) I type 90+ words a minute. I'm also intensely verbose and full of emotion - aren't these the perfect storm of criteria for a good blogger? Yet mine sits neglected while I pine away reading my talent friends' thoughts day after day!

Well, inferiority be damned - I blogged today! haHA!

Thursday, December 11

Time Travel

I'm pretty much blown away at how easy time travel is. I know, it's also impossible. But you'd be hard pressed to convince me of that once the tree gets into place...a few lights, cinnamon in the air, a nip on the breeze and I'm back in childhood. Not just memories, but all the wonder, excitement & hope comes rushing back. I know the New Year is a great time for reconnecting with the true cares we should be focusing on, but I believe it's the recapturing of our childhood dreams at Christmas that has us convinced at New Years that we CAN tackle all those impossible dreams.

I love Christmas. I am so thankful it's not all year long because Christmas is the prime example of why delayed gratification is always 1000 times better than instant gratification. My poor sister is a lizard - she has to talk herself down from full-scale panic every year when the summer starts to give-way to fall. But that's when I start to count down to these feelings.

I've yet to have kids, but I'm sure that I'm bound to go through all the same phases of pregnancy that millions of women have traversed before me...however, I've got a heads start on many I know as I go through the nesting phase every year for at least a month. Not only do I feel like baking and cleaning and cooking anything that takes forever and fills the entire house with homey smells...I even dive into organization projects that have sat all year nagging at me. I used to think it was a begin-the-New-Year-right sort of a thing. And I think most people would think it's just my organized nature making room for the stuff that's bound to come through my doors during the gift exchange process. But it's true nesting. It's all about creating a home. Even this year as I'm single and my housemates are too busy to decorate the doesn't matter if I'm ALL alone, I would still do this exact same thing.

Here's something I love about my particular design...there are just some things that no matter if I'm in a crowd or alone, the fun in it remains the same. For me, Christmas is one of those. I would, for sure, prefer to be with my family on Christmas (all of them), but if I ever found myself alone on Christmas, I would still find a way to have a Charlie Brown Christmas tree, festive house, warm smells and time for sentimental thoughts.

So Merry Christmas to you wherever you may be, whomever you may be with or without...may a simple thing like a baby born in a barn bring you great hope, may the story of that Baby's mother's love bring you comfort, may the story of that Baby's success bring you courage and may you find a way to pass those qualities on to others in the days to come.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, November 12

So I had this day...

Today was a Wednesday. It's a low-maintenance sort of a day. The kind of day where I usually block out a few hours in the morning to work on the weekly Nutshell for New Life. The kind of day that I book appointments in because it's typically low key & sort of quiet. The kind of day that I might be able to tear my eyes away from the immediate & get a grip on the 'coming'. The kind of day where I sometimes forget that if I put TOO many things on a low-maintenance Wednesday, that it becomes the most chaotic day one might imagine and loses the very nature of a Wednesday. Today was that day.

One of the things I love about my job is that it holds a tiny bit of everything - it uses the utmost my anal nature has to offer, it taxes my creativity, it stretches my management skills, it utilizes my routine-creating brain, it draws on my people skills, it develops my heart for the lost, etc...I am NEVER bored. But there are those days when my job requires ALL of those things at one time. Those are the days where I leave the campus & wonder what I accomplished and what sort of mess I might be returning to in the morning.

I'm learning to handle these days with more dignity & finesse - they used to make me lose my character and all my friends. But I'm taking things more in stride - so much so that it was 3:30 today before I realized I hadn't yet had a chance to pee and somehow had missed my 10:30 snack alarm AND my noon lunch alarm. At 4 I realized my Crystal Light powder was caked to the bottom of my water bottle because I'd poured it in there (somewhere around 11:30, I thnk) with the intention of refilling the water & instead couldn't get a break to get TO the water dispenser. The kind of day that you have a line of at least 2 people waiting on you 65% of the time. The kind of day where the church gets its money's worth out of me.

These sorts of days come probably 4-5 times per month (yes, I realize that means that sometimes it's more than once a week) & I can't tell you what a relief it is to not feel like the day after these kinds of days is going to be filled with apology emails & phone calls :) Hooray for maturation & development!

I'm not quite to the place where I end these days with anything but massive prayers for a miracle to happen tomorrow that erases the back-log I created today & keeps the pattern from repeating tomorrow... :)

Tuesday, November 11

The Wonders of Technology

I feel about a hundred years behind the times for just setting up my first blog. Heck, my sister who is a mother of 3 young children, a major ministry leader, a superb wife & gardener extraordinaire finds time to blog (and keep a separate website for her kids' sake...). I'm a complete moron. But I've tackled FaceBook and I love what it's doing for my social life. So I'm biting the bullet and tackling blogging. Who knows, once my pride is no longer dinged from being the only person in North America who doesn't regularly blog, I'll find it's not the thing for me. But for now, for this nanosecond, I feel caught up with the current trend in technology.