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    “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.
(Matthew 13:44-46 ESV)

Graduation fast approaches, and I’ve been confronted with the choices that follow.  Where will I go? What will I do?

Most days, I wish very badly that I could give the standard answer.  Contrary to popular belief, I am neither brave nor immune to the opinions of others. I wish I could say that I’d taken a job worth bragging rights. I wish I could say that I was moving into an apartment in a trendy part of town.

But I can’t, and I’m not.  As of now, the answers are all in the category of, “I don’t know.”

But I do know.

I’ve found the treasure hidden in the field, the pearl of great value.

Now I’m confronted with what’s next.  Will I sell all that I have to buy it?

Will I trade it in? The approval of my parents, my sisters, my family, my community. The respect of my professors and peers. The comfortable life I was raised to know. The certainty of a husband, children, a career. Everything.

Will I sell all that I have?  The price is high. It is very costly, and very painful, and very hard. Do I believe the pearl, the field, to be worth that much?

I think that I do.

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I just finished reading “Gladys Aylward: The Little Woman,” a biography of a missionary to China from the early 20th century. Read it. It’s good. Not too long, and really interesting. Seriously, this lady was awesome. She spent her life running around China doing awesome things.

One of the stories that really struck me involved a time when Gladys began traveling far into the Chinese countryside, near Tibet, to share the Gospel. At one point, she came upon a Lamasery (a buddhist monastery for strict buddhist monks.) Thought these monks lived a strict life, rarely ever leaving the Lamasery and avoiding time with women, when Gladys showed up they invited her in.

Upon sharing the Gospel with them, Gladys realized that they already knew much of what she was telling them. When she asked the head of the lamasery how this was so, this was the story he told. It gave me chills.

“It is a long story. Out on our mountainside grows a licorice herb which my lamas collect and sell in the cities.  One year the men who had taken the herb harvest down on the mules were passing through a village when they saw a ma waving a paper while he called out, “Who wants one? Salvation free and for nothing. He who believes gets salvation and lives forever. If you want to learn more of this come to the gospel hall.”
The lamas, utterly astounded at such a doctrine, took the tract and brought it back to the lamasery.  I was then shown the tract, not worn and in pieces, stuck on the wall. It was a perfectly ordinary tract, now worn and in pieces, stuck on the wall. It was a perfectly ordinary tract, simply quoting John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

That was all, but from it that they had learned that somewhere there was a “God who loved.” Everybody read and reread it, or had it read to them.

The head lama continued the story after I had read that important scrap of paper.

“The next year, when our men took the herb down to the cities they were told to find out where “The God who loved’ lived, but for five years they could learn nothing more.

THen the man who had first received the tract vowed he would not come back until he learned more about this God. T They went on and on until they came to Len Chow. There they saw an important-looking man on the street, and asked their usual question, ‘Can you tell us where the God who loves lives?”

“Oh yes,’ he said. ‘Go down that street, and you will come to a large gateway with three signs over it – “Faith, Hope, Charity.” Go in there; they will tell you about God.’

Jubilantly, they approached the small China Inland Mission station, and asked the same question of the Chinese evangelist.  He told them all he could, then gave them each a copy of the Gospels.

Eagerly, they hurried back to the lamasery and we read the accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. We believed all that it contained, though there was much we could not understand.  But one verse seemed of special importance.  Christ had said, ‘Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel,’ so obviously one day someone would come to tell us more, about this wonderful God. All we had to do was to wait and when God sent a messenger, be ready to receive him.”

“All we had to do was wait.”

How many more people are out there, the seeds already sown, just waiting for someone to tell them about the Gospel.

Will we go?

 

I wish I knew what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

I wish I had a “5 Year Plan.”

I wish I had an answer other than “I don’t know, maybe, not really,” when people ask me if I know what I’m going to do after college.

But the truth is, I don’t. I will graduate, but then, who knows? 5 years, that’s almost inconceivable. My whole life – well, I can’t say.

I like photography (my major.) But I like a lot of things. I like coffee. I like knitting. I like trashy reality tv shows and things with birds on them. That doesn’t mean I’ll make a life with any of those things.

I hate being defined like that. As if where I live or how I make money defines who I am or the substance of my life. That’s not who I am.

So the next time that someone asks me, “So, what do you want to do with your life?” this is what I’m going to say.

“I can’t tell you where I’ll live. I can’t tell you who will be my employer, or what my job title will be, or what kind of work I’ll do. But I can tell you this. I’m going to laugh. I’m going cry. I’m going marry a great man, God willing. I’m going to have my own children, or maybe adopt a few, or maybe both. I’m going to make cookies for my neighbors. I’m going to invest in a church that I’ll love like my own body. I’m going to throw birthday parties. I’m going to lay in bed with my husband on a Saturday morning, talking about nothing in particular.

I’m going to sit around tables with my family late into the night, telling stories about the past. I’m going to take walks in the fall and enjoy the weather. I’m going to drink a LOT of coffee. I’m going to burn dinner. I’m going to teach a baby to say “mama.”I’m going to get angry. I’m going to forgive. I’m going to swim on really hot days. I’m going to drink good wine with great friends.

I’m going to look at the stars. I’m going to plant a garden. I’m going to take a lot of pictures. I’m going to sing hymns in my kitchen. I’m going to sit on the beach and listen to the waves. I’m going to marvel at the blue of the midwestern sky in September. I’m going to wear pretty dresses.

I’m going to tell people that Jesus’ loves them. I’m going to serve the God that made me. I’m going love people around me so much it breaks my heart. I’m going live to be 80, or maybe die tomorrow.

I’m going to live. Not just be alive, but really live, I’m going to experience this life for everything that it’s worth.”

I probably won’t say that. I’ll probably just say, “I don’t know.” But that’s what I really mean. Because I might not know what I want to do after I graduate, or even what I want to do tomorrow. But I do know that God made me to live, and live I will.

“Tell me what it is you plan to do with your one, wild and precious life!” – Mary Oliver

This is Just So Beautiful – music video by Jenny & Tyler

As everyone ramps up to head back to school, and college freshmen get ready to pack mom’s minivan and head off college, newspapers and websites are all publishing their obligatory “college advice” articles. As an incoming freshmen to Ohio University 3 years ago, I read all of those articles that I could. I wanted to be ready.

The thing is, all of those articles seemed to say the same things. “Don’t buy your books.” “Make sure you study.” “Join a club, make sure to exercise!”  All good advice, to be sure. But they didn’t prepare me. In fact, there are several core things that  no one told me about college. So, of course, here it comes – The 5 things no one tells you about college

1. It’s really hard to have your heart in two places.

As excited as I was as a college freshmen, nothing prepared me for just how completely I would fall in love with my new home of Athens, Ohio. Over the three years that I’ve been there, it has grown to be my home. My friends are there. My bedroom is there. My stuff is there. I have tons of memories, favorite haunts, favored coffee shops and delis. In so many ways, my heart is embedded in those places. But, just the same – I spent 18 years growing up in Dayton, Ohio. My childhood home is there. My parents are there. My dogs are there. Old memories, old haunts, other favored shops and eateries. My heart is divided, and it’s really hard. When I’m in Dayton, I miss Athens. When I’m in Athens, I miss Dayton. It can be hard to split your world between two different cities. So be prepared.

2. You’ll be a nomad.

#2 essentially goes along with #1 in some ways. Because your heart and life is in two cities, you’ll constantly be traveling back and forth between them. Important events and people are in both cities. It’s inevitable that you’ll need to travel. But even beyond that, you become a sort of nomad, roaming from place to place to see people, go on trips, etc. For example, this summer, there will be 10 total weekends. At the end of it all, I will have been home for approximately 3 of them. Between moving in and out, weddings, parties, bridal showers, visiting friends, and vacations, I’m rarely home. Even at school, it seems every weekend I’m either going home, going to Columbus, going on a retreat. I’m always in the car, going somewhere. And while I love seeing friends, I hate living out of a suitcase But it’s inevitable. So buy an air mattress (college friends are too poor to have beds for you to sleep on!) and invest in a good suitcase. Eventually, you’ll settle down (or so I’ve heard.)

3. You’ll often panic, and feel like you have no idea what you’re doing.

In high school, things were relatively simple. You did teenager things, and your parents handled the big stuff like bills, budgets, car repairs, and grocery shopping. But now, all of the sudden, it’s up to you. It starts the moment your parents walk out of your dorm room and leave you to run your own life. People don’t blink twice when handing you the lease to an apartment to sign, or telling you to drive the company car to pick up supplies from Walmart (true story, had to drive the company minivan in the summer 2010 and felt like I was going to die). You’re an adult. And that’s weird. When I signed the papers and was handed my first credit card this past spring, I wanted to run back into the bank and scream “WAIT! WAIT! Are you sure I can have this? I don’t know what I’m doing!” It’s strange how overwhelming grocery shopping can be when realize that you’re going to need to buy more than Oreos and Nutella. And I wish I could say that it gets better, but from what I’ve heard, it really doesn’t. Soon, you’re gonna find yourself getting a career, getting married, and having a baby. And the whole time the refrain in the back of your head will sound something like “WAIT! WAIT! Are you sure I can have this? I don’t know what I’m doing!” But you’re an adult now! So take the keys, take the car (or the husband or the baby or whatever) and start moving – life is all about learning on the job!

4. You’ll make the best friends of your entire life – only to see them all scatter after graduation.

The first few weeks of college are hard, and awkward. You don’t have those friends you’ve known since preschool anymore. People are different. Everyone’s trying to adjust. But slowly, as the year goes on, you meet people like you. You start hanging out, getting lunch, going uptown. And, somewhere in it all, you become best friends. You spend the next 4 years spending pretty much your entire life with these people. You live with them, take classes with them, work with them, date them, love them. They become the best friends you’ve ever known, and they have a good chunk of your heart and soul.
And then, one day, you graduate. And everyone gets married, gets jobs, and moves to whatever city their new employer is in. Sometimes it’s just the next city over, and sometimes it’s another continent. Yes, you can visit and Skype and text and whatever, but it’s still really hard – it just isn’t the same.
I don’t say this to discourage people from making friends. By all means, make these friends – like I said, they’re the best you’ll probably ever know! But, be aware. There will be a day that college ends. So treasure your friendships. Someday, they won’t live in the dorm room next door.

5.The future becomes super-real, super-fast – and it’s terrifying.

Throughout your whole life, people have been asking you, “What do you want to do when you grow up?” Even in high school, you answer with an, “Oh, I don’t know, maybe a scientist, or a hairdresser…” It all seems so vague and far away. It doesn’t seem to matter much if you don’t know. But then, one day (and it comes at different points for everyone) it hits you. The “real world” is coming, and it’s coming FAST. People keep asking you that stupid question, “What do you want do when you graduate?” (Because, news flash, you already are grown up [AAAAH!], and now you’re just waiting to get a piece of paper to confirm that you’re competent to actually work for a living.)
People keep asking me that and all I can think is, “Umm. I want to be able to buy groceries. And pay rent.” And that’s really about the extent of what I know! I have NO IDEA what I want to do for the rest of my life!!!! And like I outline in #3, I don’t really feel ready for any of this. Living on my own? A job? Marriage? Babies? When did I go from not being responsible enough to have my own dog to being allowed to have an infant?
When the future changes from a “someday” into a “now,” well, it’s terrifying.

So that’s my list. 5 things that no one tells you about college. Now that I’ve sufficiently scared you, here’s the last thing I have to say. It will be among the best 4 years of your life. Really, for all of the scary and the bad, it really is great. I won’t lie, it’s gonna be really hard. You’re gonna struggle. You’re gonna cry. You’re gonna have days that make you want to quit. But it’s so worth it. So live up every minute of it. It goes by faster than you know.

Also… GO BOBCATS!

So there’s this song called “Jesus, Friend of Sinners” by Casting Crowns. In general, I like it. I like the idea behind it. It’s not terrible. But I have one problem.

At one point in the song, the lyrics read “A plank-eyed saint with dirty hands and a heart divided.”

A heart divided.

That’s where my problem starts. A heart divided, sung like it’s a bad thing. Um, excuse me, but Casting Crowns, a divided heart is a good thing. We all have divided hearts. We have a left and right ventricle and atrium. If you don’t, that’s called a septal defect, and it can kill you.

Oh, song writers. No knowledge of basic anatomy.

There’s always at least one point in my day when something happens and I realize, “Shoot. I’m a sinner.”

In that moment, I have have two options at how I can choose to respond. Option number one is to humbly confess that I am a sinner saved by grace, and in need of grace every minute of every day. Option number two is to harden my heart, become stubborn, continue in my sin, and persist in walking in jealousy, anger, fear, selfishness and apathy.

I have to admit, more often that not, I chose the latter over the former. I choose to turn away from grace, and wallow in sin, shame and misery. I cry to God in a perfunctory fashion, bemoaning my condition but not accepting his provision for my change. In the moment, I turn my back to the cross and declare that the work completed when Jesus cried out, “it is finished,” is not enough for what I am experiencing.

But this where grace comes through. Grace, which has both saved me from the penalty of my sin and cleansed me from it’s effects, does even more. It will not leave me there. In that moment, the Lord doesn’t respond to me in anger. All of His wrath poured out on Jesus, He can turn to me in kindness. In gentleness. In love and mercy.  He beckons me until my hardened heart melts and I cannot resist.

Again and again and again, He calls me back to Him. He pulls me back into his arms and reaffirms what I have already learned. I am forgiven. I am his daughter. I have a kingdom that will never fade and an inheritance that will never perish. In His eyes, I am perfectly righteous and completely holy. Nothing that I can ever do will change that.

“Shoot. I’m a sinner.”
“I know,” he says. “And I love you.”

“It is by grace you have been saved, through faith. And this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God, not the result of works, so that no one may boast.” – Eph 2:8,9

With the countdown at less than a week, I’m getting super anxious to get back to Athens. My “back to school” shopping is done.” My room is in shambles. My totes and boxes are all out and half-packed. Yup. It’s time to go back. And the closer I get to going back, the more I begin to realize just how much I have missed Athens. You can probably guess what’s coming next, so I’ll just jump right in!

Top 5 Things I’m Looking Forward to in Athens

1.Red bricks. No, not the bar. But those streets. Those bouncy, slippery, trippy, pot-hole filled streets. For as much pain as they cause me (and my car’s suspension), I’ve missed them. There’s nothing like the red glow they get when the sunsets, or that satisfying sheen when they get wet at night.

2. Donkey coffee. I miss Donkey coffee so much you’d think I was dating it. Seriously, I have a terrible craving that only their Marakesh blend and a huge soy-milk vanilla chai can fill.

3. 35 Stimson Ave. Comfy red couch. Dirty porch. Street football. Sonic runs. After-180 hangouts. Yup. I miss it.

4.Front Room. I really miss froomin’ it, and not because they have such terrible coffee, but because I know if I need a friend, I can almost always find one there.

5. Friends. Cheesey. Cliche. But so true. I miss my friends terribly. I need to see them, hear them, and hug them. After all, what good is Athens without a good group of friends to share it with?

When I’m dreaming (as I often do), my dreams often slip to the way I wish life could be. They way I would live, if I could. The way life could be, if Eve had never reached out and sinned that first time, and the world was perfect.

I would live in a small house set deep in a big forest with a large garden and a medium sized lake nearby. My garden would have flowers and trees, and enough veggies to satisfy both the bunnies and myself.

The house would always be lit with sunlight, and smell like fresh flowers and baking bread. It would never be quiet, filled with children and visiting friends and laughter.

I’d spend my days baking and gardening, visiting friends, wandering in the forest, swimming in the lake, sleeping in the garden and enjoying the sunshine (but never a sunburn). I’d never have to take a photograph, because everything would always stay perfect – and if I wanted to see it again, I could just come back later.  Every meal would taste the way food does after you’ve been very hungry, for a very long time, even though you’d never be hungry.

And best of all, if it were perfect, God would be there. And I’d spend all of the time sitting with my Father, talking to my Brother, and enjoying the warmth of the Spirit. And all of the gifts above would pale in comparison to this. Because this – this is what my soul was made to do.

These are the things I think about, when the days are long and my heart is heavy, and my body feels weary through my bones. I think, and I can smile, because I know I’m not just dreaming. I have the assurance of things hoped for, and though I know I’ll probably only see slivers of this now, but in a blink (for what is 60, even 70 years in comparison with eternity?) I’ll be in heaven, and I can rest until all of this is reality.

This what I dream about. What do you dream about?

I love skirts. As soon as it hits above freezing I will wear them with just about anything. I will only wear pants when forced. I knew that I loved skirts, but I didn’t realize the love affair that I had going with them until one chilly day fall quarter I emerged from my room in jeans, and a hall mate exclaimed “You’re wearing pants! So you DO have jeans!”

And for all you haters that contend that you can't be active in skirts, take this as proof that you're wrong. I once played an entire game of "World Cup Soccer" in a skirt. And nearly won. True story.

Yes, I do have jeans, but they’re like the tech support. Necessary, but extremely annoying, and only to used when absolutely needed.

Yes. Skirts are better than pants. And here’s why:

1.Breeze. ’nuff said.
2.Cute, quick, & lazy: jeans and a t-shirt? Average, somewhat sloppy, definitely lazy. Skirt and t-shirt? Cute, feminine, funky, and fashionable. And still lazy.
3. Diversity: Have you ever seen someone wearing floral patterned pants, or lacy shorts? They’re either Lady Gaga, an HBO star, or very brave. I can’t pull that off. Floral and lacy skirts, however, I can wear with ease. Ta. Da.
4. Stretchiness:  Pants without buttons/zippers = sweats and pajamas. Skirts without buttons/zippers = Normal fashion staples. Are you following me here? Skirts are like sweatpants in that they allow room for my food-baby with ease, but I can wear them in someplace other than my room. (I am a vehemently opposed to ever wearing pajama pants or sweats as an everyday outfit. Only in the house.)
5. The “Sound of Music” effect: Yes, I am running out of reasons. But yes, this is a real phenomena. By this I mean the feeling that one gets when slipping into the perfect skirt that fills the wearer with the urge to run out to the nearest field of flowers and dance around with abundant joy.

Do your pants bring you that much joy? I think not.

So the title pretty much sums this all up. Yup. It’s a post. About a penguin being tickled. I bet you think this post is rather girly and a little inane? Fine. Judge away, because I don’t care. This is the cutest thing I think I’ve ever seen, and that includes babies. And I’ve seen some pretty cute babies. Watch it. And be in awe.

Don’t you want a penguin now?

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Past Musings